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.
“How do you settle on a start-up strategy when what you need to know in your start-up changes every day?”
Today we answered your question:
“How do you settle on a start-up strategy when what you need to know in your start-up changes every day?”
I understand your dilemma completely and you are not alone. Since 2015 I have worked with start-ups and established businesses of all sizes to scientifically identify and develop capabilities and big picture strategies that include both consistency and adaptability. However, without a solid business foundation or blueprint from which to launch, an effective strategy can appear elusive.
Each business day is...
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
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.
To succeed in any business environment a business requires both core and dynamic capabilities. Our focus here are dynamic capabilities, the ability to learn, apply the learning skilfully to adapt quickly.
Dynamic capabilities are necessary because the business environment is never static, it changes constantly, so a business needs to adapt with it. I like to use the athletics race analogy. Imagine a 100 metre race. A runner bursts off the start line as the gun goes off, immediately striking and maintaining a steady, strong pace, never changing, even when competitors pass by on the track. Who will get to the finish line first? Like the runner, without adaption the business becomes stagnant, and competitors who are adapting, pass by reaching the customer first.
From a technology and innovation perspective, the need for adaptability stems from technology advancements. In today’s environment advancements occur every 18 months. Advancements mean a new set of competitors offering new, more convenient, more enticing and exciting ways to interest a finite number of customers. New technologies have removed geographical borders, so competitors are global, and therefore, are unknown, compared to previous years where competitors where more local, easier to recognise and keep an eye on. As Jack Welch, retired CEO for General Electric, said “ An organisation’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage".
So getting ahead, and staying ahead, of the competition requires, robust competitor and business environment research that informs a good strategy, and which dynamic capabilities to develop. Here are 3 common dynamic capabilities using Zoom under COVID as an example where a thorough simple STEEPLE/PESTLE analysis can help identify changes and new opportunities.
1.Business contextual factors
Zoom has flourished due to the global need for video conferencing for communication. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/jun/03/zoom-booms-as-teleconferencing-company-profits-from-coronavirus-crisis
Zoom application and infrastructure was in place when the world needed it, was easy to set up and use, and low cost. Entrepreneurs recognising the trend early have developed alternative applications that offer all the things Zoom doesn’t offer. Megatrends can also help identify ‘sub’ trends sprouting from the megatrend. For example, online video teaching, though around for quite a few years already, has exploded recently.
In both the examples above businesses have used technologies to grasp opportunities in delivering a service to satisfy the demand of the consumer.
Develop the capability to stay up to date, and recognise changes, in these 3 dynamic areas, then apply your findings to your advantage, to get ahead, and stay ahead, of your competitors.
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.
Earlier today we received notification informing us we were the most viewed Quora writer in the topic of Innovation Management.
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.
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.
The digital revolution that exploded from around 2010 has changed the way we do business and live our lives today. Culture, and using it as a competitive advantage is very popular today.
A simple example of the overused trend on company websites of links to an “Our story” page. The purpose is for prospective clients to buy into the culture of the business which turns them into loyal customers.
So, how can you turn a company culture into a competitive advantage?
Both the culture and a business’s objectives, vision, aim are unique to each business so there is no ‘1-size-fits-all’ step by step guide. Rather, an holistic approach is required, skillfully applied by specialists in cultures, competitive advantage, and innovation. Specialists can identify the elements within a culture that can be used for competitive advantage successfully. The specialists also need to be up to date with your competitors, sector, and the business environment you operate within to effectively position your business and its culture within the business environment so that you outperform competitors.
Today in my work as a CTO most people think of technology as digital websites, social media, CRM’s, mobile phones, wifi, internet, e-commerce, modems, car engines.
This is the case because they are explicit. People can see them, interact with them each day, therefore have some understand of what it can do for them. However, they only make up about 5% of technologies.
Around 95% of technologies are implicit - can't be seen and requires specialist science based skills that take years of learning and experience to be able to understand, to apply the technologies effectively, within legislation, safely, and ethically.
In reality technology is actually scientific knowledge applied to overcome a practical problem. So technologies can be anything where science is applied to achieve an outcome.
For example, unique service delivery, management styles, business model innovation, computer programming, engineering, identifying and creating competitive advantage in business, managing complex situations systemically.
So the biggest illusion about technology is that most people today understand technology as the 5% they can see, touch and, therefore, understand rather than the 95% science.
Applying a common analogy for better understanding - knowing about the 5% and understanding it as technology is like knowing our body and thinking we are doctors.
“Jack Welch said, “An organisation’s ability to learn and translate that learning into action rapidly is the ultimate competitive advantage”. What does it mean?”
The current business environment changes every 18 months as a result of technological advancements. Technology advancements 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).
So a key capability each organisation should have is the ability to adapt every 18 months using new technologies to keep them competitive. However, not all aspects of a business can be changed.
For example, changing the culture of a business is tricky, time consuming (longer than 18 months) and seldom successful (IBM is an example of a successful culture change).
One area an organisation can be adaptable is in effectively and efficiently collecting, analyzing and skillfully 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. This is an example of what Jack Welch meant when he said “An organisation’s ability to learn and translate that learning into action rapidly is the ultimate competitive advantage”.
Organisations often use external experts to manage this aspect or to develop the capabilities within the organisation as it requires expert skills.
Joseph Schumpeter’s research, a world renowned economist from the early 1900’s, shows that with each technological advancement comes great entrepreneurial opportunities. We have seen that occurring in our own lives recently with digital technology. Amazon, Netflix, Google, Uber are current examples of businesses that would not exist without digital technologies. Like every technological advancement there are both positive and negative effects.
For example, the above services have enhanced people’s lives tremendously by creating the opportunity to buy cheaper transport, books, and provided more convenient ways of delivering a service such as providing instant access to unlimited information. One of the negative sides, however, is we give away some of our privacy to enjoy those services.
Digging deeper the fear new disruptive technologies bring is often the fear of change and the uncertainty rather than fear of the technology itself. Once we identify our personal fear of change we can manage the fear and prepare ourselves for new technologies by learning about the positive and negative aspects going forward.