Technology is becoming increasingly pervasive in B2B buyer-seller relationships and strategic marketing endeavors. That’s why I could not resist the French-American Chamber of Commerce’s recent seminar. They invited Erik van Ommeren of VINT, the international research institute of Sogeti, to discuss how technology affects business growth, our customers’ behavior, and society at large.
Technology is becoming increasingly pervasive in B2B buyer-seller relationships and strategic marketing endeavors. That’s why I could not resist the French-American Chamber of Commerce’s recent seminar. They invited Erik van Ommeren of VINT, the international research institute of Sogeti, to discuss how technology affects business growth, customer behavior, and society at large.
VINT – Vision Inspiration Navigation and Trends – delivers thought-provoking views of technology. They help advance organizations’ understanding of today’s technology trends, and how to turn those trends into value.
I sat down with Erik and share his insights here.
Lisa: Erik, please define “disruptive technology” for us.
Erik: Disruptive Technology brings changes significant enough to warrant a new way of thinking, a new mental model. Technology has disrupted markets (Digital media killed the traditional music store), disrupted human behavior (How do you interact with your friends these day?) and is even starting to disrupt international politics (Think wikileaks and perhaps even digital warfare to bring down nuclear installations in Iran). Technology in itself can be disruptive, but more often it’s the creative application of existing technology that proves disruptive: people or companies use technology to create a new situation where they have the upper hand over the (other) incumbents.
Lisa: Why should B2B executives care about disruptive technology in these volatile times? Isn’t that risky?
Erik: Volatile times are scary because of their unpredictable nature, but they are also times of opportunity. Never waste a good crisis! Share data, integrate a process or attach your services to the services of someone else. You want your end consumer to get the benefit of both. If your company is the first in the industry to use mobile, 3d or location awareness in a creative new way, you can be the one who disrupts the market. Any business strategy these days is part technology strategy and vice versa. Companies that embrace this view of ‘Business Technology’ best are the ones that will prevail.
Lisa: How is disruptive technology affecting the way we interact with our customers?
Erik: Once a technology has been adopted, new patterns of behavior can spread rapidly. Customers are seizing the opportunities to share their opinions and preferences, bringing more transparency in every market. For organizations, this means that they will have an even stronger motive to create honest and relevant interactions with their customers. Even if the technology doesn’t change your company directly, the technology will change your customers’ behaviors. Through their changed demands, they will change your company.
Lisa: How is it affecting the way we plan for growth?
Erik: Growth and even profit are not very powerful goals in themselves: they don’t inspire people to do great things. They are merely the outcomes of business going well. In an unpredictable world a true ambition, a higher goal, a vision is needed to inspire and motivate people. Once you have agreement on that, it will become immediately clear which technologies serve that goal.
Also, in a volatile, highly connected world, the traditional budget planning cycle is a useless tool for managing an organization. Instead, more focus needs to be on coaching, learning, growing and quickly responding to new information. Think in terms of bottom-up, empowerment and agility.
Lisa: What are 2-3 things every executive should consider when faced with so many technology alternatives?
Erik: Keep these three things in mind while creating your Business Technology strategy:
1. It’s about people. New opportunities are bound by the capacity for people to change. Usability, simplicity and relations always win over technical perfection or innovativeness.
2. Integration counts. It’s easy to be agile and flexible all the time, but there comes a time when you need a process that continuously improves the integration and reduces the complexity of your technology. (i.e. Enterprise Architecture)
3. You cannot predict the future. In hindsight, we quickly adapt. Who could predict that iPads, iPhones, and cloud computing would become so pervasive? The true disruptions may come from unexpected sources.
What can technology innovation can transform your growth planning and customer loyalty efforts this year? It might just be the breakthrough you need to outpace your competitors.
Copyright 2011, Lisa Nirell. All rights reserved. This post originally appeared in FastCompany.