How to Decide Which Technology to Keep Up With and Apply?
We were recently posed the question: “If it's not possible to keep up with every new technology, how do we decide which technology to keep up with and apply?”
The image above lists some of the new technologies industrial suppliers are dealing with but there are many others too, for example, New Materials! Therefore we think many industrial suppliers struggle with this question so are sharing our answer here. But first we need to explain how we think about technology. New technology alone is rarely THE ANSWER but it is often PART OF THE ANSWER!
Of course the answer depends on what you are trying to achieve. For example, if your goal is, say, to increase your personal productivity or to enter a new, or new to you, market then the answer is those technologies that enable your goal. However, for our questioner, and we think most of you, the goal is to make their current business more successful. In that case, the answer is: “to keep up with and apply those technologies that better enable you to deliver what your customers want."
What do your customers want?
Steve Jobs once said, "You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they'll want something new.” An example of that was the motor car, when consumers asked for a faster horse! Nonetheless you need to ask what your customers want at a high level but filter their answers through your industry knowledge and intuition. We don't have access to your research so for the purposes of this blog post, we'll use a proxy list. Let's take Global MD of Accenture’s Management Consulting Division, Robert Wollan's list of what customers want from a company:
- Be on our side
- Be personally accountable for our desired results
- Be proactive
- Solve our problems
- Be innovative in responding to our needs
There are likely other 'wants' too, for example, 'offer competitive pricing' but our point is to list your customers 'wants' then view them through the prism of what technologies can help you better deliver them. For example:
Be On Our Side
Do your customers feel your whole business is on their side? Have you fully aligned your sales and marketing teams? But if customers still avoid talking to your sales or marketing teams though happily talk to your engineering, support or customer success teams that may be a strong clue to who they think is on their side! In the video on the right Crazy Egg's GM presents a convincing argument for significant future company growth being driven by support or customer success departments.
Be Personally Accountable For Our Desired Results
How well do your products and services integrate into their companies? Do you measure and report the your contribution to achieving their goals? By now you are likely familiar with suppliers (like Fastenal in the image above) placing vending machines at customer locations and reducing their stock holding costs. But how about enabling customers to use Additive Manufacturing to 3D Print one or more customized components of your products at their location?
Could you offer IIOT versions of your products supported by a preventative maintenance service that ensures your customers have zero nasty surprises and downtime? Do you respond fast on Social Media if a customer raises an issue there? In being proactive it helps to know what works - Tim Bartik, a regional economist, recently wrote an important new paper called “Helping Manufacturing-Intensive Communities: What Works?” Among his findings are that “better skills for local workers help attract and grow higher-wage jobs.”
Solve Our Problems
Our last blog post was about User Experience (UX) going mainsteam - is your UX optimal for your customers? Using IIOT technology where can you place sensors where they can solve real problems? Can you solve any customer problems using virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) which are sometimes collectively called XR - see Why Brands Need to Take the Plunge into VR Today for many good problem solving ideas. Look for repeatable tasks that can be automated and involve massive amounts of data that an AI or Machine Learning application can solve. Industrial examples of successful technology adoption include MSC achieving 60% of revenue via eCommerce in Q1 2018 and Adaptive Pricing in Grainger's spectacular Q1 2018 results - customers have clearly decided to support Grainger's new pricing strategy.
Be Innovative In Responding To Our Needs
In today’s B2B sales cycle, buyers aren’t returning sales peoples’ phone calls. They’re simply going online, using a search engine to find what they want, doing their own research on features and prices and some of the time making their purchases. If they do talk to a sales person they are often 80% or more through their preferred process. So help them work in their preferred way - let designers find your products along with all the detailed information they need online and even download a 2D CAD drawing or 3D CAD model if needed. Achieving that, as you can see Grainger has, requires multiple online technologies including industrial websites, catalogs, configurators (including CPQ), SEO, SEM, Digital Marketing, Analytics and perhaps Machine Learning...
We're all just conductors on the technology train, we can decide how fast we apply (or not) a technology but our customers decide whether we are more successful or not! Generally it's necessary to keep up with developments in more technologies than we end up applying to our businesses. For example, the Boston Dynamics video on the right probably shows the autonomous robotic state of the art for a 2 legged running robot though no news yet of any commercial products from it. On the other hand Automation with Robotics under human supervision is thoroughly established in manufacturing.
At CDS we continue to develop our technologies and stay up-to-date on any other technologies we think can help us meet your 'wants'. If you have any suggestions for improvements we could make please let us know. As always, please share your comments below or, if you'd like our opinion on your B2B eCommerce plans please call us or click either button below: