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Get a (digital) life!

Last week my teenage daughter was interviewed by the Sunday Times. I didn’t realise what it was all about until I read the headline: “Children spend seven hours a day in ‘electronic life’.”
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There she was explaining that “there is hardly a waking hour when she is not connected to an electronic device”. As I’m sure you can imagine, it sparked a heated debate at school and especially at home, where we naively thought she was doing her homework!

However, I’ve realised that, at 17, some of her generation are already in the workplace. Over the next few years, the influence they have over consumer technology will start to transform the business-to-business environment, too.

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Last year, I came across a fascinating Illinois based business called Threadless.com set up by two internet entrepreneurs, Jake Nickell and Jacob DeHart. They manufacture t-shirts. "So what?" you might ask. Nickell and DeHart include all their customers in the design process via the internet, which means that when they manufacture, they already know what will sell and how many customers will buy. Unlike their more traditional competitors, they have minimal wastage and had never even thought of operating any other way. Just think how many other businesses could benefit from this approach.

I‘m utterly convinced that the strategic use of technology will be a key competitive differentiator for businesses. This recession will be a Darwinian experience, where only the fittest will survive. The winners will be those that have found new ways of doing things quicker and more cost effectively than their competitors, while improving the overall customer experience.

If you don’t know where to start, your customers and your employees should be an amazing source of innovative ideas. So here are three questions that I think all businesses, large and small, should be asking themselves:

1) What do you want your business to look like in three years? 2) Do you have a plan to get there? 3) How will you innovate to gain competitive advantage?

It’s not just 17 year olds who should be immersed in web technology…Martin Leuw joined IRIS in 2001 and has grown it into a £120m-turnover software house with a market value of more than £500m. Read more here.

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