To be a disrupter, you have to reinvent.
Reinvention in the Software Industry
"You should be inventing and re-inventing in house the next product or service that will knock out the one you make now. If you don’t, somebody else will." – Arkadi Kuhlmann, Reinventing Innovation
Within the software industry the pace of creation and change exceeds the speed of light, so the word that has become synonymous with software is innovation. In his most recent article, Roger Cusa explains that innovation doesn't always mean new invention. Cusa calls out some of the most recognizably innovative brands in recent years, Zappos, Virgin, Cold Stone, Domino's, Walt Disney, and points out how they didn't invent a brand new product or concept, but reinvented or built-upon existing concepts and norms within their respective markets. He explains, "Reinvention is about creating a new solution to a problem by matching existing technologies to current and emerging consumer behaviors."
Over the past few years, there has been a massive trend toward Minimum Viable Products, or MVPs, which are essentially quick and dirty products built purposely hastily around a specific idea. Their primary objective is to gain rapid revenue and feedback in order to iterate to the next thing. MVPs have increased the rate at which new ideas and products are pumped out into the buyersphere. (That might be a made-up word.)
Universal tools for creation and easily-accessible markets are making it simpler for the ordinary person to do things that previously required some level of expertise, such as image and video creation, design, and web and app development. The establishment and popularity of mobile apps, along with software that makes it easier to build and code, have created a faster yet broader race to create the next new, shiny thing. This explosion in available options has profoundly diluted the software and mobile app markets.
On the consumer end, many companies and even individual consumers are starting to come up for air and realizing they have too many disconnected systems which they are trying to force into a flowing, continuous way of functioning. At first, these products are so enticing because they are the fresh, new fix. The solution that's going to help you get ahead or just enjoy your life a little more. These products or services often come with attractive price tags because they're hyper-focused on solving that one problem for you.
However, when you apply this in real life, while you are trying to do your job or get things done, and your brain is so overstretched you can hardly put a sentence together, you step back and look at the big picture and find you've bought into several of the greatest, newest things and willingly entered into a completely disjointed system of functioning. The attractive price tags when added up side-by-side and managed separately become a heavy burden. You quickly realize your multiple systems can't communicate with each other and even though they save you time on that one, specific problem, it takes you way more time and brain power to function across all of the one-off solutions. There are even companies now whose only reason for existence is to help you connect all of your different platforms, for an additional price of course.
These issues have created a momentum swing back toward all-inclusive product Suites that reach further and do more. These Suites were how some of the giants came into power, think Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, all focused on providing sweeping solutions, wanting to be the only provider you needed for any issue you could possibly encounter. These solutions were originally marketed primarily toward Enterprise-level, or very large companies, that could afford the technology at the time these providers were rising. They created a monopoly in the early years of the tech revolution. However, at our current rapid growth stage, every single one of those giants has either figured out or is now struggling with how to market to and allow the small business and individual consumer to utilize and rely on their suites of products as well.
Right now, people and businesses are out there searching for "a better or simpler way to do things" rather than another new, shiny thing to add to their long list of things. They want to condense and save rather than expand and spend even more.
At WorkOutLoud, we've kept both sides of this spectrum in mind to provide the best of both worlds. We look at things from a pieces and parts perspective, but through a high-level solution lens. We strive to provide a customizable suite of solutions that allow your organization to bring many of your customer and partner-focused operations together, and to spread that experience across the different segments and departments within your company. This allows you to provide not only your customers but also your internal teams with a more fluid and comprehensive experience. By bringing as much together as possible, we're focused on adding a wider array of value while reducing your overall cost.
However, if you've already bought into several smaller pieces that you can't or don't want to move away from, our product allows for modular use as well. You can choose the parts you need and turn off anything you won't use. We have an API that allows you to integrate with many of your current solutions and we are constantly looking at new ways to help you connect through WorkOutLoud using your favorite platforms and interfaces so you don't have to stop what you're doing and move into a different system every time something comes up.
Reinvention of Customer Communities
"Company leaders who play it safe ask themselves, “What do we know how to make?” Company leaders who are a little bolder ask, “What does the customer demand right now?” And the most successful innovators of all ask, “What will the customer want next?” – Arkadi Kuhlmann, Reinventing Innovation
When it comes to serving customers, so many companies today are taking similar actions to their competitors because it is the norm or what everyone else is doing. Help desks, documentation and tutorials, massive around the clock support teams, social media strategies. Not that any of these are bad ideas, but for many they are disjointed efforts that involve too many different resources and become difficult to manage, especially in regards to a comprehensive customer experience.
Matthew Griffin explains in his article, The Death of the 20th Century Corporation, how millennial organizations have uprooted the once solid ground that the giant Corporations have stood upon for so many years. He describes how "..their platforms created communities and the communities became customers and soon these customers were not only buying the millennials products and services they were helping ideate, hack, design and build the next and so the cycle continued propelling staggering revenue growth that allowed them to disrupt entire industries and usurp the incumbents in years rather than decades."
These new, adaptive companies with their young, impatient leaders found or created new ways to tap into and gain relevant information directly from their most valuable resource, their customers. This, in turn, allowed them to provide more value more quickly to those customers and create a new type of consumer, the advocate. The person that loves your product so much they are not only willing, but eager to tell other people about it and share their personal experiences with your product, service, and company.
Community and crowd-sourcing are important aspects of the customer relationship where many companies are currently missing the mark. Some are attempting to make it happen and even finding some success with forums or social media groups, but all too often those tend to become too issue-focused, or they get lost in the shuffle of your customer's busy lives.
Private and secure online communities have created a new way for companies to bring customers and their networks in closer. People can join your branded community and provide their feedback directly to your company and your other current and prospective customers instead of or in addition to independent review sites or social media channels. They can learn from each other's experiences as well as engage with your internal experts to receive more fulfilling and relevant information. This engagement allows your company to learn and iterate faster, which provides your consumers with higher levels of satisfaction and success, and in turn leads them to want to engage even more within the community, seek out more of your products and solutions, and become advocates for your company.
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