Helping the disruptors disrupt
Do you feel inferior?
Unlike most times you’ll read that sentence online, I’m not trying to sell you dubious natural enhancement products. Instead I want to tackle what I believe to be an inferiority complex hanging over our industry.
After all, what we do as a sector isn’t all that glamorous, is it? No matter how good your marketing team is (and ours is great, naturally), putting pipes in the ground and transferring zeroes and ones over them is never going to be sexy.
And as for the non-connectivity lines of business, those cloud and communication products? They’re slightly sexier, certainly, but essentially they are just tools – utilities, even – things we rely on and buy because we have to, rather than purchasing out of desire.
But actually, is it really just the pipes in the ground and the cloud-based tools that we’re providing? Is that what customers are buying from us? In my view, absolutely not. What we’re providing is outcomes. Whether the outcome is collaboration, communication or simple connectivity, our tools and technologies are just the means to those ends.
The technology almost doesn’t matter; it’s about the outcomes we enable. As Peter Coffee, VP for Strategic Research at Salesforce.com, puts it: “No-one ever bought a drill bit; what they were buying was the hole.”
But when we talk about collaboration, communication and connectivity being the ends, perhaps they are just the beginning of the ends. Our customers succeed not merely when they are connected and can communicate and collaborate, but when that connectivity, communication and collaboration allows them to innovate.
After all, innovation is not the same as invention. Technologies can exist long before they are used to become innovative. As Peter Coffee’s Salesforce colleague Jeremy Waite, Head of Digital Strategy, said: “An invention is a thing. An innovation changes the way people use that thing. Edison did not invent the light bulb. But he innovated it enough to change the world.”
There is a lot of talk at the moment about the disruptive economy, specifically in relation to businesses like Uber, Facebook, Airbnb and Alibaba. The premise is this: the world’s largest taxi company owns no vehicles, its most popular media owner creates no content, its largest accommodation provider owns no real estate, and its most valuable retailer has no inventory.
Something interesting is happening. In the disruptive economy, the ‘what’ of production and ownership is becoming less important and it is the ‘how’ of service delivery and fostering adoption that is prevailing.
And yet for all of these grand achievements, none of these innovations would be possible were it not for those pipes in the ground and the ability to collaborate and communicate with colleagues and customers.
It is innovators like those listed above that our industry is enabling. And that’s why I don’t think we have any reason to feel inferior.
Companies like Eclipse didn’t invent the lightbulb, but we hope our connectivity, collaboration and communication products allow you and your business to experience many of your own lightbulb moments.