Next, look at how technology is affecting your customers in your industry right now. Examine the overall customer experience as well as who is buying your offerings. For example, when ultra-light aviation came about, the first ultra-light aircraft were basically hang-gliders with engines. The FAA decided not to get involved with it, which meant people didn’t need a pilot’s license to fly an ultra-light. As a result, the first manufacturers targeted that demographic ― people who wanted to fly but who didn’t have the time or money to get a pilot’s license. One company thought they could get a better customer, so they asked, “Why not redefine the market?”
Rather than target those who didn’t have a license (and who had less disposable income), this company decided to target commercial jet pilots and flight instructors. After all, these people loved to fly and they had money; however, because of their jobs, flying had become more automated and less fun. Then the company went one step further and redefined the ultra-light itself by adding a stick and rudder and instrument controls. They made the ultra light more like an airplane rather than a hang-glider, which better appealed to their new target market. The company went on to being highly successful, all because they redefined who their customer was and then made product changes accordingly.
So when it comes to your customers, ask yourself some key questions, such as:
- Is there a better customer? For example, maybe you’re selling to a customer who is focused on the lowest price.
- Who is your ideal customer?
- Is there a customer you don’t have but should have?
- Could you use technology to redefine your product and attract that customer?
- Is there a way to use technology to enhance your product or service in some way that opens up a market or creates a new market for you?
Finally, look at the specific ways in which you compete in the marketplace as well as what makes your company unique. Then decide how technology can redefine the way you compete. For example, At one time, the Polaroid was the king of instant photography. But then technology and digital photography changed their industry, and the way they competed (instant photography) changed but Polaroid didn’t change with it. Instead, they made the mistake many businesses do: they used technology to get more efficient and lower their costs but failed to create new products and markets.
Similarly, Kodak was failing for over a decade. Finally, they looked at how they competed in the past as well as what it would take to compete in the future. That’s when they embraced digital photography. And while they still have some traditional film labs across the country, it’s their digital products division that’s most profitable today.
The moral: The longer you wait to redefine how you compete, the harder it is to survive. However, when you pinpoint a way to use technology to compete better, you create new revenue streams. So when it comes to competing in a technology-driven age, ask yourself some key questions, such as:
- Is there a way you can use technology to redefine how you compete?
- Is there a way you can use technology to change your product or how you service people?
- Is there a way you can use technology to redefine your customer’s experience?
Yes, the technology revolutions we’re currently experiencing are redefining how companies make money, how professionals work, and how consumers buy. They’re also redefining the strategic role CIOs play in the company, enabling CIOs to have a bigger hand in external product/service creation, industry standards, and the company’s long-term vision. No longer can CIOs keep their focus on data protection and company networks (although those will always be key job functions). Today’s CIOs must also look at how the company as a whole can use technology to redefine itself in the marketplace.
From mobile finance and banking to geo-social networking tools, every vertical from real estate to manufacturing is going to be redefined in a short period of time. No CIO can afford to move slowly, otherwise, he or she may miss the opportunity entirely.
Embrace the future, today
You also have to realize that using technology such as apps, smart phones, and smart pads to redefine your company does not mean you throw security out the window. You simply need to rethink security. With the cost of hardware continuing to decrease and with bandwidth and processing power continuing to increase, it’s easy to predict that cloud computing, apps, smart phones, and smart pads will gain even more popularity. As a CIO, that can mean one of two things for you: 1) it can be a major headache, or 2) it can be a major opportunity. The difference is in how you look at the shifts and how you embrace the future.
Ultimately, staying ahead and forging new ground during a technology-driven transformation is indeed possible. It’s all about looking at where the market is going rather than where it is today. It’s about looking at where your customer is evolving, not where they used to be. When you change your mindset, ask some key questions, and then take action on what the answers reveal, you can use today’s technology paradigm shifts to redefine your company, improve operations, create new revenue streams, and experience higher profits than ever before.
Daniel Burrus is considered one of the world’s leading technology forecasters and business strategists, and is the founder and CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients better understand how technological, social and business forces are converging to create enormous, untapped opportunities. He is the author of six books, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal best seller Flash Foresight: How To See the Invisible and Do the Impossible as well as the highly acclaimed Technotrends.