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Earlier this year, I posted a blog, Are You a Do’er?, which was inspired from my participation at the Business of Software Conferencelate in 2011. There was a wealth of content presented at that conference and of course it inspired another thought thread that now lends itself to a blog topic.
The theme… Road to nowhere. Are you, or I, or perhaps both of us,on a road to nowhere? Are we caught up in the innovation race to add more features and functionality to our software/hardware/whatever product that we lose sight of what’s important to the user base? This was the talk of a few folks at the conference, but one person in particular, Harvard Professor Clayton Christensen, argued in his talk (here is the video) that we need to shift our focus away from adding more and more features into what is already a well-functioning product and keeping up the innovation race with our competition, and instead figure out how to bridge the divide between consumption and non-consumption. Prof. Christensen, who is also quoted in the book, Mastering the Complex Sale by Jeff Thule, asks what can you do to pull in new users/customers that for whatever reason have not found their way to your offering (product/service)?
Now I imagine I have a few of you interested in debating this with me and thinking, “Hold on a minute Sherry, are you saying to forget about your current customers and simply focus on the ‘haves’ vs. the ‘have nots’?” Well, not at all! Prof. Christiansen goes on to explain that most customers today are bombarded with so much information about a product and service that we, by human nature, simplify it for sanity sake so that when it comes to a comparison of features/functionality, we are able – in a timely fashion - to reach a decision.
Take for example a decision to buy a new phone. First, we ask ourselves, do we need a smartphone? Do we need 4G? Do we need text? Data? etc.? Do we dig into what chips are inside driving the technology? Do we do a robust review of all the applications available? Do we do an exhaustive study on performance/dropped calls/battery life? Think about the hundreds if not millions of features that go into a cell phone. If we had to weigh each and every one, we’d still be using string and tin cans :-) So Prof. Christiansen tells us that we should simplify the choices…commoditize difficult things. In the end we come up with a simple check list: Phone? Yes. Text? Yes. Email? Yes. Costs? Variables. Then we contemplate this reduced set of key features and make our decision.
So why am I rambling on about this? Because with IMS here and gone, it seemed like an excellent time to see how well the “road to where” concept fit with exhibitors on the floor. When you were walking around the exhibition floor, did you hear about what’s new for newness sake, or more about what tools/products/services have opted not to be on the road to nowhere and instead are taking their customers—new and existing—somewhere?
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