I believe there is a distracting and value destroying focus on technology for its own sake, with little emphasis on providing elegant and valuable solutions to customer challenges.
So, where’s the value in the Trillion Node Economy? Simply, it lives where complex, valuable problems can be solved using the Trillion Node Network.
Whilst that might sound too simplistic, it always surprises me that most thinking starts with what cool stuff we could do with new technology, without much thought into the demand and the value. Just think back to the £22bn spent on UK 3G licences with no supporting business plans or understanding of potential customer needs (I know, I was there!)
There are a lot of people spending lots more money looking in the wrong places. Providing solutions to problems that don’t exist or where there’s little or no realisable value.
There’s a long list. Just look at any Smart City project searching for compelling services that justify the network investment and generate new revenues. Lots of hype, but when you look closely at the business cases, they don’t add up.
Meanwhile, look at Apple. They have focused (and executed brilliantly) on solving valuable problems that people will pay serious money for. Interface that works, devices that are beautifully designed and simply work.
Designing new technology is relatively easy. Money, smart people and hard work will deliver new devices, applications and services. Finding valuable, problems that people are willing to pay for is less obvious and fraught with failure. And if there’s one thing Executives and Shareholders don’t like it failure. Hence, I believe the focus on the more concrete new technology with visible, tangible outcomes.
When Orange was successful, we used to focus on a day in the life of our target customer base, see what challenges they faced in their daily lives and try to find ways we could help them find solution using our network, our services and their handsets. Of course we needed to find solutions that people would find worth paying for, but the starting point was the customers’ challenges.
Some companies do start here, but quickly lose sight of solving customer challenges in favour of gleaming, cool new technology. Then they’re off on the wrong track, along with the rest of their competitors.
The late Steve Jobs summed up this approach neatly saying “Start with the customer experience and work back to the technology, not the other way around.”