Seven steps for legacy companies to drive disruptive innovation

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Finding an opportunity in a problem often starts with reframing the situation from a customer’s perspective. Grab, a ride hailing service based out of Southeast Asia, has been able to corner 72 per cent of the private vehicle hailing market in the region by using innovation to address pain points consumers faced with existing services.
MARCH 30, 2020 - 1:23 PM

Enterprises often stand in their own way by stalling disruptive innovations or ideas out of sheer loyalty to their core businesses. In today’s uncertain economic climate, reluctance to adopt frameworks that suit changing consumer demands puts organisations at even greater risk than they might already be facing.

In fact, best management practices and a healthy R&D budget are no longer the only ingredients needed to compete against volatile market forces. Companies that employ inflexible organisational structures and legacy operating models often create blind spots, leaving them incapable of handling unpredictable market threats. To successfully launch ground-breaking products in a bear market, companies should explore looking beyond their core offerings and establishing the innovation function as a separate entity independent of the core business.

Here are some steps they can consider taking.

1. Reframe the problem question in terms of customer experience.

Finding an opportunity in a problem often starts with reframing the situation from a customer’s perspective. Grab, a ride hailing service based out of Southeast Asia, has been able to corner 72 per cent of the private vehicle hailing market in the region by using innovation to address pain points consumers faced with existing services.

A natural company tendency is to ask: ‘How do we improve sales?’ Analysing the situation from a customers’ perspective could potentially lead companies to ask: ‘What is causing customers to leave their current provider?’

Companies need a repeatable approach to identifying innovations with high revenue potential. Combining big data with field research on behaviours and emotions to gain a deep understanding of customers’ motivations and desires is an efficient way to achieve this.

2. Design a consistent user experience for customers across all channels.

Today, customers expect a consistent experience across all digital touchpoints ― web, mobile and other new channels enabled by voice-activated assistants. Businesses need to apply findings from consumer-behavioural research to design a customer experience model bearing in mind the challenges they want to solve and the events that trigger the customers’ use of the product. The experience delivered should be predicated upon the behavioural patterns and aspirations identified.

3. Excite your CXOs, business sponsors and investors with a strong business case.

A fundamental step in driving the adoption of digitally innovative solutions is market research. Companies must lay proper foundations to ensure that their stakeholders buy into the changes they wish to effect. A recent Cognizant survey found that 62 per cent of business leaders in Singapore find deriving a clear digital strategy for their companies a significant barrier. 

Some aspects that could help organisations better define their innovation roadmaps are:

● Potential market size of the innovation

● Other players in the ecosystem, their market-share and activities

● Data-backed case studies to prove that the product addresses a revenue generating market

● Estimated time on resource planning and training to operate the new service

● An incisive plan to bring the product/service to the market

4. Keep the implementation simple, flexible and adaptable.

Preparing for constant change and innovation should be a continuous process. Traditional product development release cycles take 18-24 months, which is far too slow compared to the agile development tools and methodologies that start-ups use. A fully agile organisation can roll out multiple product releases in a day and commit to production changes in under an hour. In order to keep their offerings viable, organisations must factor in the upswing in consumer sophistication across Asia that comes with the rapid expansion of Asia’s middle class, expected to balloon to 1.75 billion this year. Flexible frameworks play an essential role in this.

5. Consider using a dedicated marketing and sales organisation as you launch the product. 

When launching new products or services in the market, legacy companies often insert them into their current sales and marketing organisations. Rather than integrating them with the current operating model, they should consider creating dedicated marketing teams to bring products or services to bear. Independently driven, these teams would be able to better steer strategies tailored specifically to meet new market requirements. 

6. Turn operations and maintenance into an asset for continuous innovation. 

With a micro-services architecture that focusses on building single-function modules and agile processes in place, operations teams can monitor service uptake in real time, detecting shifting market conditions in days instead of months. The innovation team should be empowered and channelised to focus exclusively on new product development. 

7. Foster a culture that supports innovation and accelerates change. 

The new digital era calls for a different mind-set, and companies must consider adopting practical approaches to digital transformation. The C-suite have to inculcate the value of innovation to their organisation’s members and develop teams that are committed to combining data science, human science and business acumen to conceive, build and bring new digital products to market at scale.

 

The writer is Global Delivery Head, Digital Engineering, at Cognizant.