Five Ways to Growth by Thinking Differently about Your Business
In the age of digital disruption, every company needs to think differently about their business – both to grow beyond their core markets, and to head off competition from new entrants. But often the exact skills that helped companies succeed in the past prevent them from finding success in the future. At Dove Print Solutions, we have reinvented the company multiple times as technologies and markets change over time.
While today’s chapter in our history is still being written, we have found several ways to think differently about our business. These five insights may be helpful to other companies with a similar need to transform and grow beyond their core business.
Focus on what your customers want, not what you make
Your customers buy from you for a variety of reasons, the most important is that you help them achieve the outcomes they want. But it’s all too easy to lose sight of that and focus only on improving your product or service to keep up with competitors. This tunnel vision can prevent you from helping your customers achieve their outcomes in new and better ways and exposes you to new entrants that have figured this out.
With this mindset, you focus on how to deliver your core value to your customers in new ways. For instance, auto manufacturers will still be around in the future, but they are starting to define themselves as “mobility services companies.” They will increasingly deliver transportation as a service that meets the needs of young people who have little interest in car ownership.
When you think about Dove Print Solutions, it’s not wrong to think “Dove Print Solutions makes and sells toner and ink.” But Dove Print Solutions is not just an imaging supplies company. Fundamentally Dove Print Solutions has always helped customers with work – using or inventing the best technologies of each age. Printing, scanning, and managing documents are key components of work, but only a subset of all the activities that define work.
It is critical for us to understand how our customers define work. Our office customers don’t just want to print; they want to automate workflows and accelerate decisions and revenue. So we utilize Print Audit and workflow automation solutions that help our customers do exactly that.
Create a unifying vision of the future
All of your employees want your company to grow through innovation, and they all have ideas on how best to do it. It can be helpful to create a unifying and directional vision of the future to focus your employees’ ideas and energy.
At Dove Print Solutions, our unifying vision is that we help our customers work better at the intersection of the physical and digital worlds. This high-level vision helps us unify the roadmaps for the two different market segments of our business – intelligent work solutions, and graphic communications and industrial printing. By defining a high-level but actionable vision that is aligned to your strategy, you can harness the creative energy of your employees with greater productivity.
Look both “inside out” and “outside in” for new opportunities
There are always many potential directions for innovation, and it can be difficult to evaluate and prioritize a large opportunity space. We have found that one effective approach is to look both “inside out” to apply your core capabilities in new adjacent markets, and “outside in” to identify new digital disruption opportunities sparked by new technologies.
Dove Print Solutions has extensive experience in managing fleets of multi and single function printers in our managed print services offering. We use predictive analytics to optimize device, parts, and supplies availability. If we redefine this core capability beyond printers, we can see new markets in managed services for connected workplaces.
Many companies stop here with this type of “inside out” analysis. But it’s also important to understand how the world is changing to identify emerging, non-obvious market opportunities from the “outside in.” In our analysis, we believe the next major technology revolution is the convergence of the physical and digital worlds. This creates massive opportunities to transform how work gets done.
Break traditional tradeoffs to deliver greater value
With the emergence of digitalization in the age of the Internet of Things and Machine Intelligence, our customers have grown accustomed to personalized experiences that are also low cost. Consider your experience with Amazon, Netflix, Uber or Lyft. Digital natives, who now make up a large percentage of our customers and employees, demand these types of experiences in their personal and work lives.
At Dove Print Solutions, we are expected to deliver high quality managed print services and help our clients become more productive while saving money at the same time. When we analyze the data from our customers’ devices, we can optimize their supply level and their work processes. And when we analyze our customers’ printing activities, we can help them distinguish between “good” and “bad” printing, leading to opportunities to convert paper-based processes to digital workflows.
In every industry, companies need to rethink competitive strategy. Formerly, we were forced to think in binary terms of either high quality or low cost. Digitalization means these tradeoffs no longer exist because digitization adds the “and” to our strategies, i.e. high quality AND low production costs; personalization AND efficiency. Researchers (and marketers) need to rethink how we deliver on the “and” promise.
Adopt agile and open innovation
Inherent in the act of pursuing new markets is a lack of historical data to help plan for the future. Innovation for new markets requires a human-centered, agile process that focuses on rapid learning and iteration, with explicit hypotheses and experiments to create new business options.
In addition, companies will likely not have all of the required technical expertise internally, so it’s important to look outside for innovation. However, when you pursue new markets, it’s a mistake to equate open innovation with technology sourcing. When there is high uncertainty, you can’t treat innovation partners like vendors. You need to share more information and manage intellectual property (IP) rights with a long-term strategic view. Focus on what you really need to protect. Allow your partners to have sufficient IP rights and opportunities that will generate the return they need. These focal points allow them to share the risk with you.
We are applying best practices in agile and open innovation within Dove Print Solutions to write the next chapter of our history. We are defining and developing business experiments with commercial partners and lead customers in digital packaging, direct-to-object printing, and digital manufacturing to deliver a better customer experience and create operational efficiencies.
There is never a one-size-fits-all approach to growth, so these ideas are meant to be a starting point for you to think about ways you can mix and match to suit your specific situation and goals.
Expanding into new markets is hard because it requires investment trade-offs from your core business into new, uncertain opportunities. These practices can help you produce a greater volume of new growth opportunities that excite your employees, fit with your abilities to deliver them, and are aligned to important growth trends in the world.
(Editor’s note: This article originally appears on the Xerox Connect blog and has been modified for this blog)