As we see the advent of another technology transition in IoT and wearables, and the gradual decay of the mobile apps era, its worthwhile to recount what we learned from the last half a decade.

Half a decade of people asking the wrong questions. How can we go mobile? What can we do to have a mobile presence? Should we build native or HTML5?

When a business is asking “How can we use this technology?” there is definitely something wrong. The right question would have been, “What can this technology do for us?”

There is a very subtle difference between the two questions.

"How can we use this technology", usually comes from hearsay. And has resulted in more than a billon apps on the app stores while a normal person does not find more than 20 of them useful. And businesses spending their IT or Marketing budget building an app that really didn’t add any new customers or revenue and then missing out completely on what mobile technology could have actually done for them.

Whereas, “What can this technology do for us?” has resulted in the 20 apps people actually ever use.

Technology is an enabler. That's it! It is not a magic wand that will increase your revenues. There is only one way to increase your revenue, understanding your customers well and building things to support them in their journey with you. Technology adoption will come by the way.

Whenever you think of an interesting use case around a new technology, think first of the existing customer lifecycle and how you are improving at least a particular aspect of that experience. Having a mobile app or a responsive site will not get you more customers or revenue. Yes, it will help you to keep the ones you have and that is also important. But unless you launch a product that is a part of a campaign to attract more customers, no technology or product will get you more customers or revenue. Technology and software is just a digitization of an existing process in real life, products are dumb implementations of ideas. Unless the idea was a process that will get new customers, you will not get new customers.

Trying to push a technology or product into an existing process should be supported with a very very strong use case, with a measurable positive revenue impact and not just a perceived "value add" that your customers have never even asked for.

Innovation is not in technology, its in understanding your customer, gathering their sentiment and knowing what they need. Customers should be like your partner while making love, you should know what they are thinking and what they want you to do. Surprising them here and there helps, if they are into that, but knowing what they like and want is the key. And the final satisfaction should always be the ultimate goal, no matter how good your innovative new move is, if it doesn’t add up to the final conversion point, its of very little value and might just end up annoying them.

Your technology or products team should always have your customer lifecycle in front of them. Stick it everywhere on the walls of your office. It should be the litmus test of any new cool idea. And the internal sell should be backed up by either measured customer feedback, or a measurable positive outcome. If there are 5 steps in your customer lifecycle and the cool new idea is increasing the number of people going from step 2 to step 3 for example, then the success of the product should be judged on that. And for that to happen you should first have a way to measure the people on step 2 and then at step 3. Ideally, you should be able to prototype something and test it with a few people at step 2 and see if it actually helps in conversion. If the prototype does not work the product will not work, or the prototype might expose a pain point that your product team was not even thinking of and that can trigger a new product that is completely different from the initial idea.

For any organization to successfully innovate and continuously create more value, they first need to have an innovation framework in place. That framework should involve, ideation, validation against the customer lifecycle, data collection at each step, prototyping, data analysis and visualization, and iterative development.

If you have a framework like that in place, its easy to keep creating more real value and hard to go wrong, and get carried away in any new technology wave.


This article was originally published in Linkedin.