The Global Entrepreneurship Conference 2017 recently took place in Johannesburg’s prestigious business hub, Sandton, with the theme of digital disruption, or the extent to which digital innovations alter the landscape of particular industries, leading the convention.
Digital disruption has changed several industries in South Africa, including banking and transport, and it is prudent for any company to have a plan to protect itself against such a force or, even better, become the force itself.
So what will it take to become a digital disruptor? Here are 10 tips to consider:
1. Be passionate about your business, service or product. The passion is what will inspire innovations from your team and perhaps even from yourself.
2. Focus on the consumer. Free technology and even free skills are available, allowing companies to really focus on what customers need and want. And at the centre of the digital disruption revolution is the customer. It is from observing them - through big data, social listening, and crowd-sourcing - that you will find your next big idea.
3. Make use of big data - as much of it as you can. Knowing your consumers inside out help you tailor your product or service to exactly what they need. Use the crowd - via online communities - to discover and generate ideas you can be certain are liked.
4. Remember that it doesn’t have to be a digital product; just a good one. Products launched with very little start-up capital include the Pebble wristwatch and a device that can translate 25 languages. As long as the product simplifies something, you’re good to go.
5. Find a way of marketing or supplying your product or service at very little cost to yourself or launch it through open-source platforms such as Kickstarter. Offer your product on free-to-list sites such as Amazon that will take a small cut of your profit.
6. Focus on simplifying processes rather than on the technology. The most popular digital disruptors have simplified the process of receiving a product or service. Look at Uber: once you had to wave down a random taxi; now you can order that taxi on your Smartphone and you don’t even have to pay with cash.
7. Turn your marketers and your information officers into a team. These two departments must work together, sharing information and technology, problem-solving, studying the numbers, and creating a progressive plan.
8. Your IT staff members must also be creative thinkers who can integrate their knowledge of IT with information about consumers for inspirational products that may disrupt normal processes. Free up your IT department by hiring a technology partner that will take over day-to-day operations.
9. Do not be embarrassed by failures: acknowledge them and recognise that mistakes made along the way contribute to you company’s progress and that of its offering.
10. Forget about ‘Ye Olde Website’. The future of digital disruption, like Uber, is in mobile and handheld devices. The business and its service needs to be accessible to mobile users, especially if products are targeted at younger consumers.