We live in a world where technology and science progress at an ever increasing rate. It was probably millennia before man progressed to create the wheel. Life in the middle ages was not too different to life in Roman times. Yet today rarely a day goes by without a what once would have been considered a major scientific discovery. Accelerating technological advancement has become the norm. Progress affects commerce. progress affect your business. So you have to be aware and plan for technological change.
There are plenty of examples of businesses ignoring technological change. The big music retail chains ignored music streaming. VHS rental became a thing of the past. Kodak invented the digital camera sensor but then allowed others to develop the digital camera as they focused on film rolls.
Time affects many business resources: manpower, finance, raw materials, knowledge. The trio of money, quality and time dominate. To implement the quality demanded by those in the marketplace is often a factor of money and time.
Quality often relies on the available time to market and the technology needed to deliver that quality. Technology includes the actual features of a product but the support functions used to produce that product.
You also have to consider the lifecycle of a market. Over time markets develop, they often enter a technological stage. This affects the consumers perception of the state of the market and your businesses position in that market. Is your business seen as cutting edge or as old-fashioned?
However in some circumstances appearing old-fashioned can be seen as a benefit. Take Fender guitars, they sell a lot of instruments which are still made on machines installed in the 1950s and which contain features like neck profiles and electronics which are all but identical to those of 50 years ago. Many players of the electric guitar still prefer amplifiers which contain valve technology little changed since the early 20th century.
Technology also affects the level of automated support in the marketplace. This isn’t just production line technology but secondary process technology such as raw material delivery technology, automated aftersales support technology and even automated marketing technology.
It can be industrial technology, like the creation of long-life egg powder for bulk bakers or 5 gigabyte memory cards for digital cameras. It can be workplace technology such as customer databases or production line automation.
There are four aspects to workplace technology:
- Improving the speed of an activity
- Improving the precision of an activity
- Technology overcoming production limitations
- technology reducing costs and wastage
Time is important as it allows faster delivery of best value but it also creates pressures. You need to be able to strategize faster, implement faster whilst meeting customer expectations faster.
That latter aspect requires careful market monitoring. Consumer attitudes change over time. Changing perceptions is fundamental to marketing.
Time can also be a competitive advantage. Being first into a market, being ‘first there and best dressed’ has long been seen as an advantageous position with sustained market share. However this view is dependent on a market being ready for the innovation and being both willing and able to assimilate it.
Reducing time required to complete a function can provide market flexibility. Who hasn’t spent hours pouring over Gantt charts and production networks trying to match available resources to production deadlines?
There are four aspects to new product taxonomy:
- Product renovation: altering old products which are already in the market place, new designs, new features
- Creating copycat products: Products which use technology which exists in the marketplace but which is new to your business
- Commercialisation of in-house products – products which exist within your business (for business purposes) which are then marketed to the consumer market.
- True innovation: New products created from new emerging technologies.
Innovation implies increased complexity and thus increased risk. You need to apply marketing functions to educate the market as to the benefits of the new technology
Time affects workplace technology. You need to pace your time resource to meet market readiness. You need to exploit technology to introduce innovation over complexity. The technology may be complex but it needs to make things easier for the consumer.
In terms of marketing, time and technology need to be considered in both strategic and operational terms.
Strategically, time and technology need to be applied to sustain competitive advantage. Operationally, time and technology need to be leveraged so as to enable first to market, to reduce costs, to develop better systems, etc.
In applying time and technology to your business, you need to be aware of the strategic advantage cycle:
- Observe your environment.
- Orientate your organisation to that environment
- Decide what you need to do to make that environment favourable to your organisation
- Act to implement your decision.
Your decision needs to advance and sustain a competitive advantage over your competitors.