Will your current business model stand the tech onslaught?

by Rob Lovegrove, Head of Digital

Published on
October 8, 2018

By now, it is a fair assumption most businesses have recognised that technology has, and will continue to have, a significant impact on them. But to what degree will technology underpin, alter or destroy your current business model?

In 1975, Kodak was synonymous with quality cameras and film products. Despite suggestions the company had ignored warning signs of a tech disruption, that year they created one of the world’s first digital camera prototypes.

In 2001, Kodak even potentially stole a march on Facebook by acquiring online photo-sharing platform Ofoto — a move which could have revolutionised its traditional film and print-based offering. In 2012 however, the business filed for bankruptcy.

Kodak is a company that saw disruptive technology on the horizon and attempted to embrace it. However it misinterpreted the looming seismic impact on its traditional business model, and instead tried to shoehorn the old with the new when a better option may have been to quarantine the two models.

In the case of the Ofoto acquisition, rather than embracing and growing a 100 per cent online photo-sharing experience, attempts were made to drive users to print photos or create print-based products such as calendars.

This misplaced commitment to a diminishing sector hampered efforts to disrupt and shape a new business model that would attract new audiences, and create new value propositions and revenue streams requiring different resources, distribution models and processes.

Often, in attempting to understand our business or industry’s biggest challenges or opportunities, we concentrate on our nearest competitors or hold true to long-held beliefs about our audiences’ needs and processes.

Instead, understanding and interpreting the ramifications of disruptions in other sectors may hold the key to our long-term future and consideration of how our business model will need to adapt. In the communication industry, our own business has long recognised the impacts of automation.

Already employed heavily in manufacturing, robotics and autonomous systems will have a huge flow-on effect which will change expectations of other products and brands, irrespective of how far removed they are from an autonomous environment.

At Rowland, we have invested in, and continue to research, machine learning. Our aim is to interpret written, verbal and facial communication to better qualify our advice and engagement or product outcomes for our clients, and we’re not alone — automation is a burning platform in boardrooms across the globe.

Often the potential trickledown effect of automation can be the most complex to interpret and recognise. Consider the mass take-up of autonomous vehicles for example. Paramedics, physios and driving instructors stand to be the casualties as fatalities, traumas, injuries and car ownership are all expected to decrease.

Irrespective of your sector, company owners and directors should be asking their own ‘what if?’ questions to understand both the obvious and far-fetched disruptions they are likely to face.

On top of that, consider what planning and employee engagement is needed today to prepare ourselves and our customers for fewer manual roles and processes as a result of more automated systems.

Managing the physical and cultural shift is not limited to research and development teams. Careful consideration to communicating these changes to internal audiences, boards and clients or customers are all balancing acts in managing expectations and demonstrating leadership in an increasingly tech-obsessed world.