Everybody talks about the importance of innovation. But history has proven that having one big idea isn’t enough. Long-term success depends on an entrepreneur’s ability to operationalize that big idea, while continuing to develop new products and processes. In the past, businesses have relied on a lot of trial and error to come up with new ideas. Today, data is driving innovation. The convergence of the Internet of Things with advanced technology solutions is putting meaningful data into the hands of decision-makers at the exact moment they need it. Consequently, using data to guide innovation, whether disruptive or incremental, will transform the global marketplace in ways we are only beginning to understand.
Big Ideas vs. Continual Improvements
Nearly everyone in the high tech industry can cite a company that has shot to success on one great idea, only to fail later because they couldn’t keep up with changing industry dynamics. Blackberry, Kodak and Palm, as examples, dominated their respective industries, but were so focused on incremental improvements that they missed major market shifts. So, which type of innovation is most important for success break-through ideas or continuous innovation? Some companies believe in focusing all their resources on uncovering the next big idea. On the other hand, it has been argued that efforts are better spent on improving existing operations. To determine which type of innovation is best for their particular situation, companies must let go of old strategies. Today, data is king.
Data is the Difference
We live in a world swimming with data. Never before has so much information been available from so many different sources. Employees from field technicians to executives now have the ability to access data from any location, extract meaning from the information and use it to develop new products and processes. Two types of data most valuable in the innovation process are customer knowledge and market trends.
High-tech companies are notorious for bringing products and services to market fast. Yet, new ideas that give customers what they want, when they want it, is how companies add value and grow revenue. For example, when Adobe Systems switched from a product model to a cloud-based service model their move was treated with skepticism. But with improved capabilities and value for the end-user, Adobe overcame initial objections. It now uses data from millions of users to identify usage patterns look for renewal risks and offer promotions at the time it’s most likely to be needed by the user.
No longer can executives rely on “gut” feelings to know which ideas to act on. Instead, innovations of the future will use trends identified through the fast analysis of massive amounts of information not just a single data point. One company leveraging the benefits of aggregate market data is eBay. With over 50 Petabytes of data, eBay can employ predictive analytic solutions so they can anticipate user behavior based on past experience and market data, identify revenue opportunities as they are happening, and communicate the information to sellers who take immediate action.
The Transformative Power of Technology
To be fair, there has never been a shortage of big ideas; and companies have been trying to understand market dynamics and customer behaviors since the beginning of commerce. More information is certainly available, but what is driving such radical changes now? Why are we seeing a distinctly new approach to innovation today? The answer is technology.
With 2.5 quintillion bytes of data being generated every day (source: IBM.com), companies need to process enormous amounts of information at incredible speeds in order to extract meaningful insight. New data management practices and technologies enable large amounts of information to be captured, processed and delivered to decision-makers. Accessibility plus incredible fast delivery make data actionable, which is why real-time information, not gut feeling, is now being used to stimulate innovative ideas such as new business models, integrated product and services solutions and worldwide information exchanges.
Data can predict the future. With the right data management techniques, information can give businesses the equivalent of a crystal ball, allowing them to invest resources in continuous improvements while also uncovering opportunities for disruptive innovations. Technology advancements are allowing users to intimately know their customers, extract meaning from vast amount of data, and collaborate across all boundaries. Companies using this ever-growing universe of information to identify changing market dynamics and take immediate action are changing innovation as we know it.
Dirk Wenzel is head of global high tech industry marketing at SAP.
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