“If you've always done it that way, it's probably wrong.” – Charles Kettering
The harsh reality of the world we operate in today, try to differentiate ourselves in, sell our services in is one where “outsourcing” has been stereotyped. As a business model, it has been popularized as the way to go if you want to offset costs, save, and do staff augmentation. There is no strategic value add to be had here, only cost-benefits and resource-efficiencies.
We can’t argue with that: not if we get into the traditional outsourcing arena.
So we are dedicating this post to creating a new arena, a new category, dedicated to the few who are true innovation partners, whose business model is geared towards creating internal growth opportunities for you; not about savings, but about creation.
Larger SaaS organizations, enterprises, digital disruptors are recognizing the value of bringing about institutional change to drive true innovation. It’s a culturally different mindset: requires a different appetite for risk, and for doing things out of turn. Methodologies and processes need to be adapted to the lifecycle of the product, not the company.
When it comes to a new launch, the only advantage a company has over early-stage startups is that they probably have a straighter, less hindered line to get early trial customers. Try getting to paying customers generating monthly recurring revenue (MRR) with a product that doesn’t solve the right problem, and things won’t seem as different. So how does a large company successfully incubate the explorer mentality and the innovation agility?
Clayton Christensen’s The Innovator’s Solution illustrates the hard-knock world for product innovators better than us: #truthbombs
We are lean startup model adopters. So we stand by, “fail fast,”, but we pay more attention to learn fast. And, we also recognize that de-risking is essential in early stages. Gaining not just internal, but market alignment is non-negotiable. Testing after spending 18 months of trying to build a solution, and then realizing that you’ve been working on the wrong solution, or worse, wrong problem wipes you out.
So the modus operandi has to evolve, change, and prioritize speed over direction, because direction in innovation is muddled in ambiguity when you are doing things that has literally never been done before. Once the earlier versions and the iterations based on feedback resonate with customers, their jobs and pain points — direction becomes clearer. No customer is going to wait around to see if you’ve got it right, they will move on to someone who gets their job done, now.
So, another hard-knock reality check: despite of the zillion books, models, and frameworks that all innovators are reading and learning from, and millions spent with the big consulting four to tell you what you need to do: a select few are getting it right.
Product innovation success has more to do about learning and action, making mistakes, than it has to do about conjuring the right answer. Attachment to your idea in it’s original form, confidence in your heuristic evaluations, a culture that penalizes mistakes: that’s the enemy.
In co-creating this blog post with some of our engineering and product team members, who have worked for some of the traditional IT Services and SaaS companies in their past life, we asked them: “Why Product Innovation Expertise? Why Zemoso or Zemoso-like?”
The barrage that came in response was too well articulated for us to even try to paraphrase:
The reality is that once a team, a company, an ecosystem has experienced a certain amount of customer traction, they have to re-align and train on now deliver incremental wins, to be risk averse, to protect what they have at all costs, to play by the rules. And that’s fine.
But that leaves a gaping hole that makes a FinTech unicorn with a few thousand developers in various parts of the world, partner with us for new product introductions / innovation and continuous innovation initiatives. Complete disruptive innovation is not something that they are living, breathing everyday anymore.
To create that cultural offshoot for design, engineering, and other specialized go-to-market services for the explorers within the organization is incredibly hard. Few try it, fewer get it right. For true breakthroughs: incremental doesn’t cut it.
Traditional design and development partners have a similar challenge: they optimized their culture, hiring, and business model for well-defined goals with a well-defined solution. It operates on the presumption of being able to deliver value through repeatability and reproduction. Therefore, completely new, never-been-done-before, and constantly changing playground are simply not what they are geared to support.
We took these insights to heart and started looking for ways to counter them. We couldn’t. We spoke to enterprise innovation leaders, CPOs and CTO’s at Series B+ startups, and we discovered that the required level of accountability, ownership, ambiguity-handling, and acceleration in product innovation is being delivered by those playing in our category and is super hard to build and maintain in-house.
First, you gotta match what you are trying to do with talent and skills that is trained to operate in that zone of unknowns, acceleration, and product lifecycle. Don’t try to do new product innovations, which sometimes tag along with technology/infrastructure modernization, with a team that has only handled mature products maintenance jobs, or the vice versa.
Secondly, you need to ensure that your go-to-market team is trained to self-organize (design, dev, user testing, and marketing) in a way that if requirements change along the way, it doesn’t add time to your launch. You process parallelly, you bring in what you need to get to the finish line, on time.
Thirdly, as an innovation-as-a-service industry, we have to accept that our job of being an innovation team and a product enabler is not to extend the time of engagement with us, but to deliver opportunities of growth for our customers.
Fourth, you prioritize user testing, market testing, and validation over all else. While we don’t really believe in sending our clients to market with something totally embarrassing is a good idea, but perfection is not the what you need to chase until you validate. Speed over direction, remember…
Finally, terms of engagement with innovation partners has to revolve around ownership, accountability, and outcomes, not output. And don’t let anybody tell you (your internal team or your partner) that it can’t be done, cause we are doing it, every day.
If you'd like to know more about how we partner with startups and enterprises, contact us here.
©2023 Zemoso Technologies. All rights reserved.