Successful Examples of Innovation: Part 2 of an Innovation Series
In today’s digital environment, the proliferation of new technology has become a necessity in order to meet the growing demand for easier, faster and better service. Just as customers have become more digitally-savvy, so too must the companies that serve them. The evolving needs and preferences of customers have become the catalyst for innovation. Businesses are transforming their organizations, processes and use of technologies to remain relevant and competitive in the marketplace. But like the evolving needs of customers, the process of transforming operations and technology must also be one of continual change. With this in mind, a few of Northridge’s leaders sat down to reflect on some of the most successful examples of innovation and their impact on business.
I remember when email was first introduced. I was working at MCI at the time and only a handful of entities like the government and a few privately-owned companies were using it. It was remarkable how quickly email altered the speed of business. I no longer needed to type a memo on company letterhead to communicate with my peers or customers. Instead, I could communicate with everyone – co-workers, my boss, clients, etc. – in a matter of seconds to a broad distribution, no matter where they were physically located. If I had a question on a product or needed to reach a customer, I was able to do it instantaneously instead of using traditional snail mail. For me, email was ground-breaking in the sense that it accelerated the pace at which companies were able to do business with each other and their customers.
One of the greatest examples of innovation I’ve seen over the years is the strategic use of Data Analytics. We are not only in the Age of Digital but the Age of Data. Most organizations have substantial amounts of it. In fact, some organizations have so much data, it’s often difficult for them to identify what’s important and how to leverage it. But with the use of advanced analytics, organizations are able to link all that relevant information together – for example, Operating Data with Financial Data or Customer Satisfaction Data – to identify problems, dependencies and areas of opportunity. At Northridge, we help our clients “connect the dots” using data analytics to identify creative solutions to some of the most challenging problems our clients struggle with both internally and externally. The power of advanced analytics to foster change and drive growth within a business makes it one of the most successful innovations I’ve witnessed throughout the years.
Marriann Cole, Chief Strategy Officer
Early in my career the use of personal computers and business-related software was virtually non-existent. If a manager wanted to share an article or a report with their staff, they would attach a paper routing tag and manually distribute the document. It could take days or weeks for everyone to get access to the information, especially if people were not co-located. And there was no such thing as Outlook Calendar to allow you to simultaneously check multiple co-workers’ availability and to schedule meetings literally in the moment. Hard to believe it now, but some of my first bosses carried an index card that listed their day’s schedule, and it was typed by their secretary from a paper calendar. Large volume data manipulation and calculations could only be done with mainframe computers. What we can now do with spreadsheets, databases and visualization tools from our desktop was impossible then. Today we can now deliver information, collaborate and make decisions with speed, accuracy and detail, and do it in real time, across the globe and around the clock. It’s just amazing to think about the “before” and “after” that’s been driven by the innovation of personal computers and business software.
One innovation that has long since evolved to become an integral part of our lives is consumers’ access to email which was propelled by American Online, Inc. or more commonly known as “AOL.” AOL brought e-mail to the masses. It was an extraordinary innovation because it took Dial-up Internet and e-mail – technologies that already existed – and fused them together onto a well-designed platform that was readily accessible to the consumer. And who could forget the recognizable ‘90’s catchphrase, “You’ve got mail,” which served as an auditory example of how businesses leveraged AOL as a new marketing channel to reach their customer base. As I mentioned in my previous post, innovation is a result that stems from the combination of existing technology and processes to create a valuable solution that we then can’t live without. In this respect, AOL was the product of such a union.