If your business is embracing digital innovation, surely the ultimate goal is to be more efficient and ahead of the curve. Here are some tips to help that happen.
Disrupt or be disrupted – that's the challenge businesses face these days. Either you're being innovative and changing an existing industry, or someone else beat you to it. There's really no place in between. So it has become increasingly important for companies to become more agile, not just in their pace or ability to adapt to change, but also in their speed of execution – or, more simply, time to market.
Being digitally transformative
Improving time to market should be your primary goal of digital transformation – or any transformation, for that matter. If you improve time to market and the speed of measuring impact, you close the overall loop from input, output and outcome, making it as effective and responsive as possible.
Consider consumer expectations for a moment. You no longer have the luxury of taking your time to perfect your next offering or waiting for potential customers to discover the wonders of your brand. They expect their needs to be met instantly, on whatever channel or platform they prefer. If you're not present or available, they'll move on to some other product, service or brand.
These digital expectations, combined with the improvements necessary to increase time to market, can be a challenge for many companies, particularly those in heavily regulated industries like pharmaceuticals or financial services. But it's not impossible, and the following can be good places to start improving your speed of execution.
1. Choose your partners wisely.
Small independent shops are often quite nimble and can improve your time to market – partly due to their size, but also by virtue of expertise. Agencies or consultancies tend to specialize in a given service, channel or audience. Partnering with an agency should be treated with the same due diligence as hiring an employee.
Even if you're working on a project-by-project basis, vet your partnerships thoroughly. The last thing you need is to partner with an agency that's got just as many bureaucratic hoops to bound through as your own organization. It's also a good idea to cross-fertilize experience and knowledge by bringing in employees and/or consultancies that don't necessarily have experience in your industry. Oftentimes, it's that diversity of thinking that creates the solution.
2. Adopt a "fast data" approach.
Take advantage of real-time data as often as possible. If you've invested in customer relationship management, enterprise resource planning or other operational systems, you already have access to it – it's just a matter of taking the time to analyze it.
You might also need to use newer technologies to make sense of the information. For example, advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence have led to new insights into customer behavior and engagement. Gaining access to these insights in real time allows for a greater response on your end, even at an operational level. Harley-Davidson, for example, constantly monitors performance in its factories, so when problems arise, they can be corrected immediately.
3. Experiment, experiment, and experiment again.
"Failing fast" is more than just some buzz phrase. When you give yourself the room to fail fast, you can quickly apply key learnings to what works and what doesn't. And wouldn't you prefer to get to the desired outcome faster rather than try to perfect some solution that might not work?
In fact, some would argue that speed of execution is more important than a seamless execution. It's certainly not that perfection is bad, but it takes a lot of time. It also places constraints on the creative process. Instead, get your product to market, gather feedback, make improvements, and then do it all over again.
4. Tap into the startup world.
Collaborating with a startup can bring fresh ideas, new methodologies and different ways of thinking. Ninety percent of companies already doing so expect to continue in the future, and 80 percent believe the collaboration will improve innovation. You may find that young companies often have a more daring, innovative mindset that pushes you out of your comfort zone.
If you have the resources, you can even start your own venture operation within your organization. It's almost like launching a company within a company, especially when it's given autonomy.
As you begin to experiment with the innovation process, make adjustments based on real-time insights, and think about your business as if it's in its infancy, you build momentum within your organization. Innovation almost becomes second nature, and as a result, you improve time to market. It's truly transformative.