Any significant business process that can be documented and best practices identified – will be. Any defined process that can be standardized – will be. Standardized processes that can be codified and automated (through robotic software automation), will be – if the volume justifies it. If the process is repeatable across many companies it will be offered as a shared service on a platform in a cloud.
If you agree with these technology maxims, then you are likely to agree that most existing business processes offer little competitive advantages in the long run, and the advantages of new innovations are fleeting so must be captured early. They will eventually become part of a shared services platform followed and used by your competitors. For example, 20 and 40 foot shipping containers offered a competitive advantage for shipping companies and ports that were early adopters, but only for a very short period of time. After a quick few years the entire world standardized on them and the competitive advantage disappeared.
Once processes are standardized and widely adopted, they no longer serve as a competitive advantage, but only as a disadvantage for those that don’t support them. Where then are competitive advantages to be found in this digital age? The answers are found in these four Competitive Niches: new, unique, personalized and unexplored. These are the areas where standardized processes and platforms don’t yet exist in the marketplace.
Capturing a positive ROI from Competitive Niches, however, requires a special kind of leadership and organization that is both courageous and committed to winning in the digital age. The key is focused leadership, speed and organizational agility. Can our leaders, staff, processes and systems move fast enough to capture Competitive Niches? That is the question.
Can our leadership teams identify new patterns in our market, customer behaviors and sales trends before our competition? Can they then deliver new and unique products, services and solutions personalized and contextually relevant to our customers before our competition? Our ability to capture and realize the value in Competitive Nichesis where forward thinking companies should be investing their resources today.
One of the areas I find most interesting today is the prediction that the average price of a sensors will drop to $0.38 by 2020. They averaged $1.30 each in 2004. Every new sensor has the opportunity to provide new data that was not available before – leading to new insights and changes in processes, services and products. We should all be asking ourselves the question, “What data am I missing today (that a new sensor might capture) that might change the way my industry works?”