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Digital transformation and innovation: Expectation vs reality

From ERP systems to niche SaaS products, there's always plenty of hype and promise, but how often are these met, let alone exceeded? We explore why expectations are rarely met, and give you an insight into how you can deliver the right outcomes with your future digital projects.
Michael Howard

Do you remember the Amazon Fire Phone? Chances are, you don’t. Which is strange, given that Amazon is such a globally recognised behemoth of a brand, right? Jeff Bezos proudly announced the arrival of the new gadget in 2014, but its sales soon crashed and burned, with the phone unavailable for purchase within a year. The price was too high, the phone lacked popular features, and focused on other ones that didn’t matter to most consumers.

Innovation doesn’t come easy. It goes to show that even established businesses with the might and power of Amazon can - and do - get innovation wrong sometimes. In fact, statistically speaking, between 70-90% of new products will fail.

So, where does it go wrong?

 

The promised land of innovation

Access to technology and the rapid dissemination of information through the internet has helped to level the playing field when it comes to developing and launching a new product. You no longer have to be a big brand to make a big splash into the market. In fact, smaller companies use agility to their advantage. But we’re living in a digital world of seemingly-overnight successes - brands who rapidly scale to global recognition. So much so, that people often equate innovation with disruption. One right idea, and you’ll be the next Uber or Airbnb. After all, you’ve heard the warnings: innovate or become irrelevant. But big ideas can also come with big risk.

And perhaps that’s where businesses are missing the mark - they’re focused too hard on creating something new, rather than addressing old problems with new solutions. They’re betting on one disruptive innovation, rather than incremental innovation, which is also critical for outpacing competitors.

 

The harsh reality: why many innovation projects fail

It’s not hard to see commonalities across organisations who can’t seem to make innovation work in their business. The fact is, products are most likely to fail when they don’t create real value for customers. That happens when:

  • Your business isn’t ready
    Often, the biggest problem is lack of preparation - where businesses are too focused on the design and build, and not on research, planning and market preparedness.

  • Your business doesn’t prioritise innovation
    Whatever industry you’re in, your business now has to think and act like a technology company. Innovating internally is just as important as turning to suppliers to help you create something new.

  • Your business isn’t listening
    Truly understanding your customers’ needs and desires is the only way to create something that will resonate. Doing the right kind of research and testing will help ensure your product is ready for market when launch time comes.

  • Your business is prioritising technology over solutions
    The answer doesn’t always lie in adopting new technology. It could be that a better understanding of user needs or user experience is where innovation really sits.

  • Innovation isn’t an on-going state in your business
    Do you have the right people, and the right structure to support and nurture a culture of innovation within your business? Innovation isn’t just for product teams. It needs to be an intrinsic part of who you are as a business.

 

Getting it right

Regardless of business size, there is one thing that successful innovators have in common: they have a deep understanding of their customer. They prioritise user-experience, developed through the iterative process of design thinking. This approach allows them to rapidly prototype and test ideas with real customers, ensuring that decisions can be made on real data - not assumptions - and further investment can be made strategically.

And successful innovators also don’t focus purely on developing new technology either. We talked about Uber above, but when we dig a little deeper we see they never created new tech. Instead, they built their business around the car-sharing principle to help mitigate congestion (encouraging people who travel to the same places at the same time to ride together), and then they pulled together existing technology such as GPS, social ratings, messaging, notifications, booking forms, payments, and pricing calculators. That people use their platform for employment and that it took off around the world is validation of its worth and value to people.

We’ve written more on what it takes to get innovation right through user experience-led design and design thinking principles. If you’re keen to dive deeper into these topics, check out our blog to read more.



Want to talk about how you can make your innovation ambitions a reality? Drop us a note.



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