Capturing a 'Kodak Moment' for UC...
Or learning from the ghosts of Christmases past, present, and future
I was talking with a friend recently about exciting technology changes on the near horizon and asked rhetorically if she knew what company invented the digital camera. When hearing the answer was Kodak, she got nonplussed, as her direct experience would seem to contradict that reality.
You see, in 1996 she worked as a commercial model for an ad campaign promoting the Kodak Advantix camera. Kodak had launched the massive marketing campaign for Advantix, which used the Advanced Photo System film format, to secure its dominant market position and compete with up-and-coming digital technology. It was convinced consumers would embrace Advantix instead of digital technology, if they heard often enough how much better it was. The campaign only lasted a few months before it was stopped because, as we all know, consumers overwhelmingly embraced the digital camera. My friend missed her opportunity for ongoing residuals... and, as for Kodak -- well, it's no longer a household name for consumer products.
How did a company that had been in business for more than 100 years and that invented the technology embedded on every smartphone today fail so spectacularly?
With such massive infrastructure in film production and photo printing processes, Kodak was more invested in protecting its existing ongoing revenue stream than going where the technology was headed. It blindly tried to push consumers one direction when they were clearly going another.
What insights can we gain from Kodak's story?
- Customers are savvy. Given competing choices, they will gravitate toward what best fits their needs.
- Continuing to do business as usual, even if it has always worked, does not guarantee future success.
- Change comes whether we choose to accept it or not.
Can we apply the lessons from Kodak to unified communications? For years vendors have been pushing UC as the next great thing. Yet it is still not universally embraced or understood by most companies. At its roots, UC strives to bring together many disparate methods of communicating, making communications simpler and, well, unified.
Today, most people still use several different chat platforms, a desk phone, separate business and personal mobile phones, personal Skype, Skype for Business, SMS on various devices, and at least two email accounts. While UC platforms are widely deployed, many users still prefer their mobile apps over most of what is available to them today via UC at the organizational level.
Will UC be the Kodak of telecommunications? Will collaboration platforms take hold instead? Will the market eventually bypass UC entirely in favor of apps that are easier to use and more comprehensive? Or something else?
After a tumultuous 2016, how should organizations approach the uncertainty of 2017?
We are on the precipice of massive change on every front, globally. Every industry will be disrupted in the next few years. We know change is coming, but may not be able to anticipate which change it is. Still, we can create an environment that can quickly respond to whatever it is. With that in mind, here are five concrete steps businesses can take to avoid having their own Kodak moments:
- Follow relevant social media platforms and news sources. Today's consumers have instant, unprecedented access to a wealth of information and countless ways to communicate. Staying on top of what users are paying attention to allows organizations to anticipate which trends matter to their businesses.
- Create a culture that embraces change. Change is inevitable. Organizations that embrace change are better positioned to respond than those that are organized around protecting the status quo.
- Change can be scary, but with the right perspective, there's a bit of magic in it. Make change a "fun" part of your environment.
- Identify and communicate priorities at all organizational levels. When the pace of change feels chaotic, make sure everyone knows what the priorities are so the most important things get the most resources and attention.
- Be flexible. Create an organizational structure that enables resources to be mobilized when important trends are identified.
If nothing else, we can expect 2017 to present new opportunities to embrace change. With the right strategies in place, organizations can thrive, regardless of what the changes bring.
"SCTC Perspectives" is written by members of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants, an international organization of independent information and communications technology professionals serving clients in all business sectors and government worldwide.