There is no question that we are in unparalleled times – ‘the millennial transit’. The changes in technology present tremendous opportunities, the pace of innovation has never been greater and the challenge for many corporations will lie in harnessing the power of these changes as a competitive weapon. They need to avoid having these trends make them obsolete in the industry landscape. There are various strategies to accomplish this. It starts by having the courage to ask tough questions and re-evaluating the business model. But before that, organizations want to know - If the millennial opportunity presents significant benefits for businesses in the future, why don’t more organizations adapt to it? Why do certain organizations continue in their ‘pre-historic technological’ states? And what are the signs that organizations are not in a state of ‘millenertia’?
Some of the desired millennial attributes are;
Remaining agile. Companies tend to focus on quarterly cycles around products, customers and earnings. And this diverts focus into operational efficiency, growth and profitability rather than new opportunities, innovative products and services.
Foster a culture of innovation. This requires a multi-dimensional approach. Physically [re]-configuring the corporate environment to include more team rooms, activity areas can encourage collaboration and discussions. Rotation of employees across various programs generates different perspectives. Celebrating/rewarding innovation and embracing failures is important. Customers can also be innovation partners.
Connect the dots. Competition may have established leading products but they may not be ‘connecting the dots’ and integrating the products to develop new product/service innovations. This is extremely valid when trying to stay ahead in the competitive marketplace.
Listen to the customer. Customers should be respected for the ‘power of choice’ that they have, and now this power just got stronger. Every input from the customer goes into improving and evolving products and services. In a way the consumer has become the producer, it is the age of ‘prosumption’.
Be aware of competition. Competition may arise from the most unlikely places and be aware of the challenges that competitors may create and proactively adjust strategy. It is even better to formalize the competitive positioning/intelligence process in a company. This helps in bettering service levels and reinventing products. Sometimes, it makes sense to partner competition and seize market opportunities.
Execution counts. There is a big difference between ‘invention’ and ‘innovation’. Many companies have gone into obscurity because they invented, did not sustain execution and that did not yield real innovation. Disruptive innovations that create new markets are backed by execution strategies which are rendered flawlessly.
The technology aspects
The convergence of social, mobility, analytics and big data technologies is where the real benefits begin to occur. Taken together these technologies are revolutionizing business and society by transforming old business models and creating new ones. These forces combined form the basis of the technology platform of the future – this platform will place incredible amount of power in the hands of consumers and employees. Organizations that use the data leverage will have access new, innovative ways to launch new products and services. Organizations that can quickly provide mobile experiences that link social interactions and localized services are likely to be recognized as leaders in the millennial era. Organizations that leverage the agility and speed of cloud services will be first to market. And that will make the true ‘millennial’ difference.
‘Millennials’ have the last word
The new ‘millennial generation’ will drastically shift consumer buying patterns. This generation which is also becoming an increasing percentage of the workforce expects an engaging workplace. In terms of attributes, this generation has high self-esteem, believes in networking, with intense interest in new communication technologies. They are confident, connected and open to change. In addition to having to cope with the changing technology arena, organizations face the challenge of not being ‘technologically prepared’ for this ‘always on’ millennial worker. Legacy systems are not web services based and are difficult to integrate with newer mobile applications. There are several technology enablers that can help modernize application infrastructures and a set of design principles can kick start this journey – Creating a service oriented architecture (SOA) ; adopting a business process centric design culture (BPM); consolidating disparate sources into master data records (MDM); designing for multi-channel, context aware customer experiences (CEM). The other millennial cravings can be satisfied through remote working; BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and gamification (online gaming environments).
With the millennial consumer, it is all about mobility – companies will need to ensure that their products and services are accessible through mobile platforms and that the end customer experience is as rich as the web based interface. Location based services will also be important to engage with the millennial consumer as they are likely to engage with an Ad that is relevant to their location.
So, how do you get started? There are many enterprises which have had the foresight and courage to embrace change, both technologically and via shifts in business models. These organizations have been able to avoid becoming ‘dinosaurs’. The first step, is to envision what the future of your industry holds and the next is to understand how these disruptive yet enabling technologies will change the fundamentals of your business model. Once the analysis is completed, it is critical to enable and re-engage the workforce to align them to the ‘millennial mission’. Implementing millennial behaviors and altering corporate structures will be critical for success. After the team is in place, the enterprise can drive optimization and innovation in core products and services. Comprehensive understanding of the end customer and providing them an outstanding consumer experience that is contextual will be key in retention. In all this, innovation is the central theme, if the organization does not promote innovation starting today; it will lag behind competition and wake up to extinction on a later day!