In the information era, software doesn't just drive business, it makes and breaks business. The traditional business strategies that used to work year after year are now resulting in slimmer and slimmer sales. Customers are more demanding than ever for companies to meet their digital-world needs. Information is a click away, and when your business can't react quickly, it is left in the dust.
It's not just demanding customers, it's competition. The world is more connected than ever, and competition is fierce and global. The playing field is leveling, and companies just a few years old can stare down goliath's of industry.
Why is that?
When you see a company's growth and sales grow, while their competitors stifle or sputter out, you are likely witnessing the results of a company's internal innovation. More likely than not, that growing company took a good, hard look at itself and said "You know what, I don't want to stand still anymore. I want to be different... unique... better than all the others."
That company decided to act, not necessarily by changing its end product, but itself - its process, its people, its nature. That company decided to internally innovate, something that would set itself apart from all its competitors.
Internal innovation comes in many forms, but a common component of that innovation is through software. Software is involved because it can help answer that introspective question: "How can we be more efficient?"
So when you're pushing for your company to innovate, and you see a potential opportunity to increase efficiency, you may find yourself choosing the software option. As you will read, exactly how this software comes into existence within your business, and the choices made to include it will likely have a drastic effect on the actual result of your efforts.
Just a click away?
"Did you know, there's an app for that?" It's more common than ever to find yourself presented with a wide array of options for software. Systems small and large offer a seemingly unending plethora of features. For consumers, software for straightforward tasks is just a click to the app store away. When it comes to business, however, the software apps can typically take a larger step to being more complex.
On the consumer level, tasks in software are plausible and easy to understand, as most people can identify with them: Track my health, wake me up, save that event, or play some music. In business however, personal issues are out the window, and business use-cases will outnumber the stars in a galaxy. The reason businesses are different is that they don't have human needs... they have specific business needs.
So where you see business apps is where there's some common ground between businesses.
Most businesses need a cashier, so there's software to help with cashiering.
Most businesses need to communicate, so there's voice and chat software.
Most businesses need to send the distribution team a notice when the invoice is only over 0.56% margin but only if the sales date is before March and it doesn't fall on a Tuesday...
Oh wait... there isn't software for that.
You see, everything's always great until you start getting into the actual details of how a business actually runs.
The Truth Hurts
Here's the thing. You want to internally innovate, right? You want to do something different from your competitors? Well, what good does it do to leverage the same commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) tools?
If your competitor has the same rickety hammer as you do, are either of you really going to get the nail into the board any faster?
If you and your competitor are deciding to improve in the exact same way, is there really any innovation?
Trade Secrets and Software
True internal innovation is hand-in-hand with doing things differently. Not only that, but the best internal innovation is never shared with competitors. Having something that your competitors can never know about that improves your efficiency is business gold.
Software is a form of business IP (Intellectual Property) and when you're choosing to have a software component as part of your internal innovation efforts, it might be wise to ask, "who's IP is this?" Is it actually the IP of a software peddler selling it to anyone willing to pay, including your competition? Or is it yours and only yours?
These days it's so common to hear about IP protections like copyrights, trademarks, and patents, but these are very public protections. Something not often talked about is the timeless, luxury, trade secret. A trade secret is IP that you do not disclose publicly, and best of all, a trade secret can still be protected through the legal system. It is a legitimate form of IP protection. There are up-sides and down-sides to a trade secret, so it's worth discussing with your legal team.
The benefit of a trade secret is that it's yours, and only yours. You're not announcing it to the world, you're not sharing it with everyone, no, it's your gold nugget of innovation that's just for you. In my opinion, a good trade secret is one of the best results of true internal innovation.
Will you get a trade secret by buying off-the-market apps, most certainly not. So what can you do?
Choose to Create
Choosing to create software doesn't mean you actually need to do the construction. Focus on ensuring that software created fits your business like a glove, that it truly addresses your efforts of internal innovation, and you will see a change for the better. You will see your business stand out from the crowd and excel.
From the Author: Christopher Eaton
Thanks for reading this topic brief. If there's one thing I know, it's business technology, and I'm not afraid to share my expertise with those who are willing to lend me a moment of their time. The business-technology landscape is an ever-evolving sea, and I happily sail it on the schooner bearing the flag of the startup Append Media. We're professionals that know how to do one thing exceptionally well: harmonize business and technology.
Discover how you can internally innovate today. I'd love to hear more about your organization.
- Christopher Eaton