Staying relevant in times of change

Posted: September 24, 2009 in Uncategorized
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Working in Product Development at Media Monitors is very much focused on delivering compelling products and services to satisfy (and hopefully exceed) the needs of our wide and varied corporate customer base.

The fun bit about the job though revolves around looking into the future and looking for opportunities to innovate, excite and lead in our areas of expertise across capturing media intelligence, extracting and presenting invaluable insights for our clients. This is mostly done within the team, and at times collaboratively (Dell’sIdeastorm is the essence of how the latter works).

An obvious trend which continues to evolve is the concept of social media and how businesses choose to get involved in this arena. Having been on the Twitter scene for about a year now, there are still a bunch of people dedicated to the topic of social media, take @socialmedia29 and @socialmediamaze amongst other Twitter community members who converse about social media and other topics.

What continues to be a challenge for any serious player in the media arena is staying on top of these trends andquickly deciding on the appropriate course of action to address these trends. We’re about to experience this ourselves: launching a social media tracking solution within Mediaportal is a great start, but dare I say it will quickly lose its edge in a matter of months.

Another working example is Murdoch’s intention to  charge for content: since his announcement in April 2009 , the concept has since been embraced by some publishers or bragged excessively by others.

So, how can we as innovation centric,  strategy driven individuals continue to add value to our customers when the traditional crystal ball ain’t giving as much insight as it should be? Perhaps some simple yet hopefully practical mantras that most of it will be familiar with:

1. Own your niche, then build on it

Apple’s iPod is proof in the pudding. When the device was launched in 2001, there already existed a variety of MP3 players in the market, from Samsung and iRiver. What made the iPod stand out from the crowd was not its functionality (in fact, some may argue its features were inferior to the rest), but its simple, intuitive user interface (as we all now know and can’t live without!).  Being first to market didn’t matter for Apple, in fact, the wait-and-see approach helped them learn market preferences and craft their own niche, which in turn created more value in iPod’s ease of use proposition. Functionality is still key, but pinpointing and leading in your niche area will fund your future endeavours in functionality at a later stage.  Perhaps user experience and effective user interface design work is king after all!

2. Reinventing the Old

To stay relevant in any business that you’re in, it’s important to keep evolving your product or service offering. A good example here is RSS Feeds. Many have discussed this technology as reaching its hey day, being substituted by social networking sites and its supporting apps who do better on currency of content and accessibility. Mashable’s recent post on Fresh Sliced News proves the point that such aging technology can be revitalized to bring new appeal to the table:  the product allows users to personalize their ‘online newspaper’ using RSS Feeds of their choice.

3. Know your clients.

This is stating the obvious and organizations know that it is important, but the truth is, not everyone puts this mantra into practice. This means being customer centric across all aspects of the business, from reviewing technology to selecting your next billing system or even the choice of code to develop on. The key to this is staying relevant to your customer needs, challenges and to achieve this you need to be frequently engaging with them: listening, learning and living their business (very familiar aspects at The Insight Exchange’s Social Media Strategies event). Taking these steps guide your business decisions, prioritise the right activities and helps you formulate the appropriate actions to take with your customers in context with what matters to them.

4. Agility matters

Identifying a customer insight is one thing. Acting on this insight is another challenge in itself. Gone are the days of successive stage development, where your business requirements are locked for development, and any deviation from the original spec is treated as a change request and its impact must be assessed before progressing further.

Think prototyping, testing against users, refine design and functionality, repeat cycle. This is exactly the path that Apple took when creating the iPhone. Apple started off with a paper based prototype, conducted several rounds of usability testing before any code was cut to build the device.

Any similar stories to share, or thought of some more useful mantras? Add your comment below!

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