“How do you understand the business or business opportunities that can be generated from the surrounding environment?”
Today we answered your question:
How do you understand the business or business opportunities that can be generated from the surrounding environment?”
Intimately knowing the individual business and the environment within which it operates, both globally and locally, combined are essential to identifying ‘good fit’ opportunities that will strengthen and drive the business forward.
The surrounding environment comprises of PESTLE or STEEPLE, that is the politics, economy, social, technologies, legislation, environment, ethics. Researching this environment regularly highlights potential business opportunities.
Knowing the specific business comes from having clearly defined business capabilities as strengths and weaknesses, which highlight which opportunities would strengthen the business and overcome weaknesses.
Today we answered your question:
A business usually has more than one strategy but for the purposes of this article the focus is on a strategic (business future) perspective.
Regardless of whether your goal is to grow your business into something or is simply a means to earn a monthly income for yourself, without knowing which you are aiming to achieve getting there will be a hit and miss affair, decision-making weak and difficult, resources may not be available when you need them, and it could take longer than necessary to get there with a trial and error approach rather than strategic. The trial and error approach historically provide other businesses with the opportunity to get to your customers before you do.
I will use the popular analogy of going on a journey to explain further.
Let’s say you decide to go on a journey. Would you immediately jump into a car and start driving? Or would you first decide on where you were going, the best route to take, the type of transport required to get there, how long it will take, do you need overnight stays, rest stops, will fuel be needed along the way? And so on.
Most of us would do the latter, that is, before setting off, decide on a destination (the goal/purpose/problem to solve), determine our preferences such travelling at low congestion times to reduce carbon emissions (guiding principles). We would precisely plan the roads to take, the required rest and fuel stops, book hotels to stay at along the way, all from the start of the journey to the destination and back (actions).
Of course, there are many analogies like the journey analogy. For example, I could have used another well-known analogy of a general planning and managing an army to win a war without fighting as compiled in “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu.
Whichever analogy is used any good strategy has these 3 key elements: a clearly identified goal/purpose/problem to solve or ,destination, guiding principles, and precise planned actions required to produce the desired ‘destination’. These three elements transformation the current situation to where it should be, what inputs are required, when, to obtain desired outputs.
But why is it so important in business? Here are five simple reasons.
Clients with established, successful businesses always ask me whether I am reading anything current and of value to their business.
Fortunately, a key aspect of my business day is to do the things business owners, entrepreneurs, managers and leaders do not have the time to do themselves. One of those activities is reading on behalf of clients because they want to know what has been done successfully already rather than waste time, sometimes years, figuring it out themselves. My clients also want to know how stay ahead of the competition rather than follow or trail behind.
I usually read peer reviewed research journal papers, books, and articles relevant to their business, business management, technology and innovation. Afterwards a summary of the key take-aways is provided together with the methods applied, new models and how it can be applied effectively and without disruption to my clients’ business if relevant.
So, here is my current reading list for the next few weeks in no specific order:
Research & Journal Papers
The role of innovation in building competitive advantages: An empirical investigation.
P. Chatzoglou, D. Chatzoudes, 2018.
Business model innovation mapping: A structured approach to a new business model.
A. Schaller, R. Vatananan-Thesenvitz, 2018.
Modelling value propositions in E-business.
A. Osterwalder, Y. Pigneur, 2003.
Sustainable competitive advantage or temporary competitive advantage: Improving understanding of an important strategy construct.
T. O’Shannassy, 2006.
Books - Leadership, strategy, personal development
The monk who sold his Ferrari.
R. Sharma, 2015.
Business is personal
P. Power OBE, 2019.
Good strategy Bad strategy: the difference and why it matters.
R. Rumelt, 2017.
(Reading for the second time)
H. Mintzberg, B. Ashlstrand, J. Lampel, 1998.
(Reading for the second time)
Wherever you turn today business owners, leaders, social media channels, books, blogs, and entrepreneurs talk about business models. It is a trendy term thrown around by so many and to such an extent that the power of a business model seems forgotten.
As a reminder, we ask and answer, four questions here. What is a business model? What does a business model look like? Why are business models so popular today? Why every business, regardless of type, size, age, wealth, or industry, needs at least one.
This updated article was first published by TO.O.D in August 2019 as "5 key points about 21st century Chief Technology Officers (CTO) for any size business."
Today we answered your question:
"What is a CTO in residence?"
ToodGlobal are an innovative example of 21st century CTO’s in residence. In residence means business owners and leaders take on CTO’s for a specific project requiring a special set of capabilities rather than on a full time salaried basis.
1. What is a CTO?
From his research Roger Smith (2007) describes CTO’s as “c-level executives who make important strategic decisions that impact the competitive position of the company” so is neither an IT Director or Technical Director.
In other words, A CTO’s aim to make decisions about the business that drive the business forward into the future, to achieve continuous growth by effectively using science-based technologies, knowledge, and the business’s capabilities in unique ways to provide customers with more value and out-manoeuvre the competition.
2. Why is a CTO so important?
Today, competitors are global and unknown so the demand for specialists able to continuously create a competitive advantage is rising significantly.
Figure 1 IT job Watch (2020) CTO’s in demand.
CTO's are able to identify...
To answer your question, sustaining a competitive advantage is key to the success and longevity of any business of any size.
Research and real world examples show businesses that do not continuously “sustain a competitive advantage” do not survive in the long term (assuming they had an advantage to begin with). An example is Blockbusters and Netflix. Netflix adapted their competitive advantage to streaming (an emerging technology at the time) while Blockbuster did not adapt so no longer exists.
This is even more relevant today in the global digital world we live in because there are new technologies released every 12 to 18 months providing you (and your unknown competitors) with new ways to excite and entice customers over and over again. If your competitors have more exiting products/services/pricing your customers will move over to them leaving your business with lower revenue.
Be aware there are different types of competitive advantage. Technology in the example above is the dynamic kind, one of several key areas for any business of any size to find a continuous competitive advantage.
As Ginni Rometty, Executive Chairman of IBM says "You've got to keep reinventing. You'll have new competitors. You'll have new customers all around you."
If you like, you can learn more about business and technology management here.
Today I answered your question:
“What are the most dominant competitive advantages of any business generally speaking?”
From a contemporary technology and innovation perspective, there are several areas within any business that can be used as dominant dynamic competitive advantages. However, firstly, the business needs to develop the capability of adapting to change and managing uncertainty effectively. A business that learns from customers and the business environment it functions in, then adapts quickly, is a necessity today for creating a competitive advantage. A business that effectively manages uncertainty can adapt quickly.
Here are 4 key...
Today I answered your question: “How do you maintain a competitive advantage?”
Creating and maintaining a strong competitive advantage is a highly specialised skill. In contemporary businesses it is often the job of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO). So, from a CTO’s perspective, it is a company’s ability to adapt that is key to maintaining a dynamic competitive advantage. Here are two reasons why.
The current business environment changes every 18 months as a result of technological advancements. Technology advancements, for example, can create new ways to deliver services (e.g. Netflix streaming films rather than dvd’s), creates new types of products (VoIP phones rather than analogue lines), and new ways to deliver value to customers (convenient e-commerce rather than in store shopping). Another point to consider is that as competitors become aware of your competitive advantage, they copy it while overcoming what you are not able to offer your customers, so creating a competitive advantage is an ongoing activity.
So, a key capability each organisation should have to maintain a competitive advantage is the ability to adapt to the changing business environment and to customers changing buying habits and needs. However, not all aspects of a business can be adapted. For example, changing the culture of a well-established global organisation is tricky, time consuming (longer than 18 months) and seldom successful (IBM is an example of a successful cultural change).
Regular research can provide an intimate awareness of the business environment that provides insights into change. Insights come from current, authoritative research of competitors, market trends, legislative changes, and emerging technology trends on a local and global scale. Local and global is necessary because the internet has destroyed geographical boundaries. As changes occur the company can identify new opportunities for competitive advantage and adapt accordingly.
Another way an organisation can be adaptable is to gain insights from customers by effectively and efficiently collecting, analyzing and skilfully using relevant knowledge from within the organisation. A simple example we see everywhere is asking customers for feedback on the product/service/process as they have experienced it. The feedback can be used to enhance the organisation and increase the customers satisfaction dealing with the organisation. This translates into a loyal, happy customer who will think twice about leaving for a competitor. It also helps the company stay in touch with their customers changing habits and needs.
This answer to your question is an example of what retired CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch, meant when he said, “An organisation’s ability to learn and translate that learning into action rapidly is the ultimate competitive advantage”.
Today I answered your question “Where can I ask people to rate my brand/domain name?”
Today, most businesses conduct continuous surveys to stay in touch with clients changing needs. I would recommend you do the same.
A survey can be one simple, targeted question for respondents to fill in rather than many, irrelevant questions. Keep it short and easy for people to complete and tell them why you are asking the question(s).
If you are looking for feedback on your brand from any source and you don’t know anyone, try joining business groups, for example, those on Facebook and ask the group members for their opinion. Remember it is just an opinion.
If you are looking for feedback from existing and potential clients, try compiling a simple survey for them to complete.
The survey should have a specific objective. For example, rather than saying ‘rate my brand/domain name’, your survey should ask questions that provide an answer to whether your brand is clear, or strong for the sector. Be specific about what you are trying to find out. By doing so it will guide you to ask the right questions. For example, ask whether the colours or name are offensive.
Use a combination of positive and negative questions for balance. Ask for additional comments too. Try asking closed questions requiring a yes, no, answers and make sure your questions are not worded in a leading way that forces the participant to give you the answer you want to hear.
You could, for example, ask respondents to rate the effectiveness of the brand on a scale of 1 to 5 or rate the impact of the brand from a negative impact at -5 to a powerful positive impact at +5. Do not ask the respondent for personal details as you don’t need them to determine your brand rating.
I use SurveyMonkey because it forces you to keep to a few questions keeping things relevant, and it collates the responses for you in graphic form making it easier for you to see the results which inform your decisions going forward.
#toodglobal #smarterbusiness #competitiveadvantage #CTO #surveys #feedback
“How does a company develop the culture of the business? Is it something that is planned or eventually forms as the business grows and develops?”
The following is from a contemporary technology and business innovation/change management perspective.
Elliott Jacques’ (1951) defines culture as the “customary and traditional way of thinking and of doing things, which is shared to a greater or lesser extent by all [...] which new members must learn, and [...] accept, in order to be accepted into service in the firm”.
In simple terms this definition suggests that the culture is planned and established when the company is set up, such as the logos, titles, as well as the business and power structure. For example, does the company use processes to control staff or rules? Is the company hierarchical (top-to-bottom) where the top man sets the core belief system, or is it horizontal where all staff play a vital part? Culture is often expressed as “the way we do things here” so includes accepted rituals, norms, values, acronyms whether set by management, influenced by staff, or both, over time.
Today, companies are redefining their culture, strategically expressing and using their culture as a dynamic (changeable) competitive advantage, a tool that sets the company apart from competitors, and entices loyal customers and quality staff with the ‘matching’ mindset. That’s why, today, we see an abundance of statements such as “People over process” (Netflix, 2020), or, “Move fast. Be bold. Be yourself (Facebook, 2020). So, a modern company’s strategy is one that embraces and plans for ongoing culture statement changes with the times, to always remain fresh, relevant and enticing.
Companies are also changing their cultures completely to ensure longevity. IBM are an example of successful cultural change from black suited, rules orientated, to the dynamic company it is today. The IBM story makes good reading.
The following is from a contemporary technology and business innovation/change management perspective.
Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM says, "You've got to keep reinventing. You'll have new competitors. You'll have new customers all around you."
Ginni’s comment says it all. To stay in business and to remain profitable businesses change and adapt constantly. Some changes are visible, such as Amazon Books expanding to include Cloud Services. Some changes are invisible yet equally as powerful. For example, P & G changed their R&D business model from researching and developing their own products in-house to engaging in open innovation with strategic partners.
Had these companies stayed as they were focused on existing clients without looking for new opportunities, customer segments, and new ways to remain competitive, they would not be the powerhouses they are today because their early business model would not be relevant today. A popular example of this phenomena is Kodak who went from supplying 90% of USA film industry to nearly no business at all.
So, to answer the question in general terms, companies need to focus on existing and new customers. Look after today’s customers in a way that outshines your competitors to feed your business today so that you can “keep reinventing” (Ginni Rometty) to open new customer segments to secure your business tomorrow.
If you are currently looking at adopting a popular business model, whether it be for a new business idea or innovating or updating an existing business, a strong strategy would be to familiarise yourself with today's popular business models. Then adopt one (if possible) that will be widely adopted over the next 5 years. That way you can get ahead of your competition. Here is some useful information and a resource to get you started:
A strong, precise business model(s) can be a powerful tool for innovation, competitive advantage, decision-making, and culture development. Business models (BM) can either be explicit, written/drawn out, or implicit, unspoken/ undocumented, yet no less powerful. A business model can be a graphic, template, or text heavy document in the form of a business plan. Often businesses have more than one business model (BM). For example, a business may have one BM for each of the following:
Building and developing strategic partnerships
There are over 50 types of BM’s that most businesses fall into (Gassmann et al, 2014). Some of the most common today are:
Freemium (18) - use some of the service for free, upgrade for additional functionality;
Subscription (48) - pay a monthly fee starting at an affordable price point with the option to increase or decrease over time;
E-commerce (13)- sell products/services online;
Performance based (38) - the client pays on results.
St Gallens Business Model Navigator (Gassmann et al, 2014)
“What are the best ways that companies have pivoted to meet the changing demands of their consumers?”
The economist Schumpeter (1939) identified a close relationship between technology developments and business cycles. Throughout history technology revolutions have occurred in tandem with business cycles or waves. In simple terms a new wave begins with each new technology bringing a surge of new products, services, skill developments, and devices over a period followed by a period of decline. Schumpeter shows the first wave starting in 1785 with the introduction of water power, textiles, and iron. Throughout the upward surge of the wave companies identify new opportunities and pivot to create new products/services/process or find new ways to do old things for greater revenue and competitive advantage.
Currently we appear to be experiencing the slowing down/decline of the 5th wave of digital networks, software, media, which started around 1990. Digital technologies removed geographical borders so anyone anywhere can conduct business/shop/interact at any time. Consumers have more choice. Also, the explosion of digital access to knowledge has created a far more informed consumer. The overall effect is the consumer no longer has to accept an unpleasant supplier experience because there are so many other suppliers to choose from and other more pleasant options available.
So the best way companies have pivoted to meet consumer demands over the past 30 years is to strive to provide good quality customer-centric all round experiences rather than expecting the customer to adapt to their way of doing business. In other words, its all about the customer.
The customer experience starts from the start of the customer journey whether it be buying in to the explicit company culture, mission, vision, to quality, affordability, availability, convenience, interaction and engagement, satisfaction, to name a few. Hence the explosion for the past few years of surveys, reviews and questionnaires. The data from these sources is collated and skillfully applied to pivot the company to meet their customer demands ahead of competition. As Jack Welch, retired CEO of General Electric said, “ An organisations ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.”
The ability to dynamically pivot business models, service delivery, products, customer experience, using technologies as the business context changes is key to company survival and competitive advantage.
A strong, precise business model(s) can be a powerful tool especially during COVID and beyond.
Business models (BM) can either be explicit, written/drawn out, or implicit, unspoken/ undocumented, yet no less powerful.
Often businesses have more than one business model (BM). For example, a business may have a BM for innovation, change, technologies, building and developing strategic partnerships, acquisitions that focus on buying up established competitors with key skills/products/services that complement the business.
There are also over 50 types of BM’s that most businesses fall into (Gassmann et al, 2014). For example, freemium, subscription, flat rate, e-commerce, retainer.
Business model(s) (BM) are powerful tools to any size contemporary business if applied skillfully. Here are a few examples:
So, a business model is a vital, powerful tool at any time for any size business at any stage of development. During COVID especially because a business needs to know what decisions can be made, within which boundaries, while retaining its core and lead over competitors so that they business continues to succeed during and beyond COVID.
Business owners and leaders are adopting a strategy of inquiring and learning to facilitate decisions going forward.
Managing a business under the COVID 19 situation as the traditional, linear, project-like approach commerce favours cannot produce a successful outcome. Why?
1. Because there is no history or experience of this kind of situation to inform management the business how to progress the business. In other words, there is no safe ‘blueprint’ to follow for a successful outcome. Everyone is learning as the situation unfolds.
2. There are so many people involved, each experiencing different emotions that will explode if a decision is made that makes them feel more uncertain.
3. Everyone has different needs. If these needs are not addressed, riots can break out and civil unrest.
So, a different management approach is needed, one that captures, learns, and considers everyone’s emotions and needs within legislation so that outcomes are favourable (not necessarily ideal) for everyone.
The different management approach is a systemic approach, one that embraces change, uncertainty, is always acutely on the ball with the needs and emotions of their workers, customers, shareholders, legislation, technologies, and are insightful about the impact their decisions will have on all these factors.
To do this successfully organisations are continuously capturing feedback from these groups, and the wider society, and learning along the way as the situation unfolds. This collective knowledge informs the business owner/leaders what steps to take going forward. Both governments and employers provide weekly updates because they need to learn as the situation unfolds before making the next decisions going forward.
“What are the three stages of strategic management?” and “ “How many types of strategic management are there?”
The original question was “What are the three stages of strategic management?” but was merged and published under “How many types of strategic management are there?” Each question has a different answer.
“What are the three stages of strategic management?”
From a technology, innovation and change management perspective, the three stages of strategic management are below in no specific order:
Stage 1: Diagnose the problem.
Stage 2: What is the guiding policy that will influence and impact any proposed solutions.
Stage 3: Coherent actions. A strategy is not a to do list, it is coherent set of precisely planned and scheduled actions for implementing and reviewing the strategy at pre-set intervals.
“How many types of strategic management are there?”
There are too many to mention all, so here are a few examples:
Horizontal vs vertical
A business plan, explicit or implicit, is the blueprint of your business. So it is different for each business. Below are some general questions to answer.
In my experience working with start-ups and existing businesses, I find the best place to start is to graphically represent the business as a business model. It is far easier for everyone to understand the business when viewed as a graphic, and to build on.
I like to use an adapted version of Gassman, Frankenberger, and Csik (2014) “magic triangle” framework (below) as it provides a simple, easy to understand graphic of the information needed to create a business plan and model with the focus on the view from your customer’s perspective of the value you provide.
Each corner of the triangle and the centre can be developed with more information as your research develops. The details can easily transfer into a business plan and an interesting pitch deck for those presentations to potential investors.
Simply fill in the four circles. Who is your target market, what value are you providing your target market, how will you provide it, at what cost, price, and mark-up (pricing model)?
Now build onto your initial answers for each circle providing much more detail as you progress. Detail comes from your knowledge of your business and experience. It also comes from thorough research and analysis. For example:
These are some of the questions to answer. Once answered add the information you accumulate to the different triangle circles. Show you know your business, market, and finances.
Now you can easily transfer the information from the graphic into a old format business plan with headings such as described by SmartAsset Top 10 Components of a Business Plan - SmartAsset
Mulgan (2007)  describes innovation as “new ideas that work”. Social innovation can refer to innovation in interactions and relationships. It can also refer to innovation aiming to overcome a social need rather than a market need. Here we focus on the latter.
Social innovation ecosystem can occur across a national, regional, global scale, across sectors, organisations, and entrepreneurs. As technologies advance, new opportunities for any individual, organisation, or company to innovate, to find new ways to do old things, arise, often providing solutions to social problems. And, of course, lets not forget that without society social innovation would not be required.
In recent times it has become very expensive for organisations to have their own in house R & D department. Technology has provided a platform for global collaboration. Together, innovation can happen faster and produce more effective innovations than any one company can produce. In addition, the availability of funding for innovation and product development is often directed at solving pressing social needs.
Here is one practical example of how innovation addresses social needs from The Alzheimer's Society:
Lewis’s grandmother Pat has reduced cognitive function as a result of Dementia. Pat forgets to drink, or does not enjoy, water throughout the day, as a result of the reduced cognitive function. The result is dehydration for which Pat needs to be hospitalised. How can dehydration be prevented, or at least reduced so that Pat can continue to live a full, independent life?
Possible social solution:
Because Pat enjoys sweets, Lewis has developed large sweets called JellyDrops that are 90% water. Pat can eat as many as she wants, whenever she wants. Pat can place jars of Jellydrops throughout the home in every room. The bright colours attract attention, look tasty, so encourage regular consumption. The more consumed the less chance of dehydration.
This solution can be easily distributed across society at low cost supporting everyone with a similar problem.
 Jelly Drops sweets to tackle dehydration in dementia
Most innovations are build on what already exists. Very few are inventions. The definition of innovation according to BIS (2012), is “innovation is the process by which new ideas are successfully exploited to create economic, social, and environmental value.”
In today’s business environment all businesses are developing the internal capabilities to innovate their products/services/processes dynamically and continuously. The capability is a necessity born out of the exponential growth of technological developments. New technologies are developed every 18 months (Moore’s Law). So most business are innovative. Those that have not adapted by developing this capability have closed, are closing, or have bought smaller, more innovative companies.
Here are a few household names who innovate services/products/processes since around 1995:
Air BnB (holiday accommodation),
IBM (their business model)
Procter and Gamble (their innovation business model)
Amazon (online books, Cloud services)
Elon Musk (space travel, electric cars)
Facebook, You Tube, Instagram, Snapchat, Whatsapp (social media apps)
Boston Dynamics - Google (robotics)
Google - (machine learning)
Ebay (online auction).
These are examples of how companies formed through skillful application of technologies to create new products/services/processes/business structures valuable to new and existing markets.
The short answer is that until the start of widespread technology adoption around 2008, small businesses had the upper hand in many ways. Examples are:
To survive businesses have employed skilled CTO’s over 10 years to adapt their business. Here are a few:
The question implies you are a business owner trying to adapt your business to Google Sites.
Try approaching this question the other way around.
In other words, start by working out the optimum workflow and processes from your customers perspective. Then adapt Google sites (or any other software) to your business. If Google sites can’t be adapted, choose another app that can.
Doing it this way around provides all the answers you need.
A contemporary technology management perspective.
Most people understand the meaning of technology to be ‘things’ such as mobile phones, websites, apps, computers, to name a few. These are not technology per se, rather they are the outcomes of technologies applied to solve a particular problem.
For example, a mobile phone (an outcome) satisfies the need for receiving and making calls while away from a desk for delivering a better customer service.
To drill a little further, technology is actually scientific knowledge applied to overcome a practical problem. So it is the scientific knowledge applied to harness radio waves, create each component to act in a specific way, and put together in a palm sized, easy to use, device, that allows us to make and receive calls on the move.
So managing scientific knowledge for overcoming problems is vital. Here are a few examples of the importance of technology management.
1. Problems: There are so many problems to be solved, they cannot all be addressed. Some sort of selection criteria and process needs to exist which requires the skills of a technology manager. For example, medical problems could be more important to overcome than waste disposal.
2. Money: Organisation have an annual budget for applying scientific knowledge to resolve problems. Those problems that are too expensive, or there is no outside funding available, cannot be undertaken. For example, government may offer additional funding for resolving certain medical issues but not for developing wind turbines for domestic use.
3. Time: Not all problems can be focused on at one time. There isn't the time or budget for it so there must be some scientific selection process and criteria. The organisation may also need time to develop the additional capabilities before being able to solve the problem. Developing a solution to a problem may take too long where the market no longer requires it. These are all skills of a technology manager.
4. Profit: Some projects, regardless of how useful the problem is that is being solved, simply will not be profitable either because there will be too few buyers of the end product, it will be too expensive to develop, or it will go to market too late.
5. Ethics: Scientists are professionals who are accountable for their actions, behaviours, and solutions created for solving problems. For example, there is a big divide between countries, regions, and societal groups in levels of e-skills, and access to technologies. It is the scientist responsibility to not make the gap bigger when finding solutions to problems.
6. Competitive advantage: Of greatest importance is managing technologies for competitive advantage. By staying up to date with emerging technologies a technology manager, or CTO, can identify new opportunities aligned with the organisations goals ahead of the competition, implement the new opportunity, and generate significant income for the organisation before anyone else goes to market with something similar. For example, Apple identified consumers desire to share music files and to have their music player wherever they went, even at the risk of virus infections and poor quality audio. Apple developed the IPod to solve all of those problems, made it cheap enough for everyone to purchase, small to carry around, and easy to use.
Overall, technology management is about formulating effective, strong strategies that drive the company’s competitive advantage, using road maps to show product/service/opportunity development and forecasting its potential, while managing a project portfolio.
In the current business environment, the best way to deal with customers who can’t afford your service is to be creative with your pricing model and come up with a solution that they can afford or at least a win-win situation.
Here is an example.
Netflix offers a subscription you can get out of at any time. The monthly subscription is easier for everyone to pay rather than a lump sum. They also offer different levels of subscription so subscribers can make a selection based on what they can afford and feel the service is worth to them without going down the illegal download route. A win-win situation.
Another example is Microsoft Office. A few years back many Microsoft users could no longer afford to purchase software as a once-off payment. The high costs encouraged piracy or adoption of open source options causing significant losses for Microsoft. A win-win situation today is Microsoft offering their up to date software on an affordable subscription basis.
Here are three simple examples of identified competitive advantages between 2015 and 2018. Examples differ in industry, type of competitive advantage, and size of business.
1. (2018) Hair salon offered a unique service that authoritative research showed was lacking in the sector – the ability to provide consultations customers felt were of value. Research showed that around only 7% of customers felt a hair consultation with a hairdresser met their needs. Yet 95% of hairdressers believed they always met the needs of the customer. The salon took advantage of this huge gap between customers’ expectations and the reality of what they were getting and used it as a competitive advantage by marketing and developing the consultation aspect of their business.
2. (2018) Global consumer goods company developed an innovation business model comprised of a collection of strategic relationships formed with innovative consumer goods manufacturers and independent R & D laboratories. The consumer goods company closed most of their in-house R&D as the collection of relationships could provide innovative products faster than they were able to develop in-house. This way the consumer goods company could stay ahead of competitors.
3. (2015) A specialist business innovation management consultancy used their pricing model as one of their competitive advantages. Authoritative research at the time showed the biggest issues businesses had working with consultants was that traditional pricing models were not transparent, the final bill very high and unknown until the end of a project, plus it excluded smaller businesses from access to the specialist services. In 2015 the agency formed and successfully tested a pricing model that overcame these issues and offer consulting on subscription. To sum up their competitive advantage is transparent pricing affordable for any size budget.
Competitive advantage is dynamic, changing continuously. As competitors become aware of your competitive advantage, they adopt it while overcoming what you are not able to offer. At this point it is no longer a competitive advantage. To stay ahead of the competition requires specialist skills and acute awareness of competitors, market trends, current authoritative research, and emerging trends. Awareness on a global scale is necessary as a result of the internet destroying geographical boundaries. This awareness requires specialist skills.
A strategy is a researched, well thought out and planned action plan for achieving your goals and objectives. A capability is having the ability to expertly apply skills in practice in an ethical, professional, safe, and expert way.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say you want to run a marathon and win. You have never done this before. You would not turn up at the start line on the day, say “I am here” and expect to finish the race or win. Rather, to successfully run and win the marathon (your goals) you would sit down long before the race day and research what you need to do to achieve those goals.
You would find out what shoes and clothing is best, how much fluid you will need during the race and where you can find it along the race track. You would train for some time before the race to ensure you have the endurance to run the distance and the strength and speed to win. You would research your competitors to find out what a win would mean - the times and pace you would have to achieve to win on the day.
Here is an example of a strategic capability in business.
Being in business is no different to the marathon example. Each day businesses win/lose clients against competitors. If a business loses too often for an extended period, it will no longer be able to stay in business. We see examples of businesses closing every day. So, to stay ahead of competitors businesses need to research their competition, sector, industry, formulate a solid, effective strategy, and develop the capabilities needed which they may or may not have, to carry out the strategy actions of stay ahead of the competition. Today, in our digital world, businesses strategically use scientific knowledge as a capability for staying ahead of the competition.