March 17, 2014

Andy Grove Was Right: HTML5 Should Feed Your Paranoia

The Innovators Dilemma has been associated primarily with hardware changes, in my mind (particularly Clayton Christensen’s analysis of memory management).  However, when I think of Marc Andreesen’s quote that software is eating everything, I have to expand my logic.

Candidly, it’s hard to take a lot of companies seriously. 

My general view is that if a company does not deliver a product or a service, I am not sure they have much of a model to go on.  When the Internet first came about, the ISPs thought they were the primary winners, but look around today and the usual telecom suspects are the winners.

What went wrong, besides the sheer economics of scale? The mistakes were two-fold.

1. Misunderstanding your own service.   AOL (News Alert) was the king of dial up, but when it came to making the transition to broadband, its strategy of having the Model Lady treat the suppliers like crap did not carry over to the last mile players. Particularly now, with its former asset of Time Warner (News Alert) Cable being bought, the lack of bundling highlights how poorly the transition was made.

2. Misunderstanding the customer’s requirements.  This weekend I used open table to make reservations.   This over the top service made my job easier, but I am not sure the restaurant got much more out of it.  However this is the trend for software these days: provide a better connection to the customer for a service that already exists.

The point that I am trying to make is that you can find your company in a world of hurt if you misunderstand your relationship with the customer.

Here is a spot-check inventory: Why do customers come to you? Is your service unique?  What is the asset you bring to the mix that customers appreciate?   It’s okay if it’s only convenience, but if it is you are incredibly vulnerable to over the top convenience players delivering your service on your behalf?

If you are vulnerable to these services directly, you had best figure out how to blend and differentiate your company with those sites.

This does not mean you have to be an expert on software, but you have to understand how to modify your website to better interact with customers. A lot of what we see is crap; a Facebook (NewsAlert) page desperately seeking likes supports virtual word of mouth, but does not directly correlate to a service like Open Table that catches a customer at the point of a buying decision.

Which brings us to the next spot check: how well do you support the customer at the point of sale?  Before you answer that, let’s look at taxi cabs and the uber app.

Image via Shutterstock

Now, in theory, hailing a cab is pretty easy. In different cities in the world, there are different protocols, but once you acclimate yourself to the area, you get it.

However, uber does something that hides the customers from the suppliers.

We go from having a person standing at a taxi stand or hailing cab on the street to basically looking at their phone and sending their location.

The buying process has been totally changed.  The customer sees benefits that a taxi driver would be hard pressed to deliver, and really can’t with the customer doing nothing more than looking at their smartphone.

If you think you support your customer well, ask yourself: can you deliver an uber-like service that can mask the buyers from your competition?  If your answer is no, ask yourself how you could and make that a requirements document for you web presence.

Now to the point about HTML5 and, particularly, this next era of Web services.  As we continue to celebrate the webat25, it’s important that you build for the future and not just the past.  The Web is gaining capabilities beyond any app store—and the closer you are to HMTL5’s innovation, the better your requirements will match to the competitive threat in your future.

Edited by Alisen Downey


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