The strength of scale

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November 23, 2017
The strength of scale
By: Lawrence Weber

The speed at which new innovations can scale is overwhelming. According to the UN, it took 38 years for radio to reach 50 million households. Apple reached that many with the iPhone alone less than three years after the model hit the market. This changing landscape creates exciting new opportunities, but at the same time this rate of change poses a set of questions for established brands. Which technologies are going to have real, long-lasting impact and which will disappear quickly from view?

A question of scale

Take Pokémon Go as an example. ComScore reported that this withering star of AR peaked at 28.5 million daily users the week after launch in July 2016. By the end of 2016, daily users were just 5 million. On the other side of the coin, there’s Google Glass. The specs were written off as a failure after their high-profile consumer launch, but are quietly pivoting to become an enterprise product that is gaining real traction.

We’d all like time to evaluate which technologies will scale and become useful foundations for communications, products and services. But this is time we don’t have, thanks to the looming presence of start-ups. These new, leaner companies are creating and testing a myriad of solutions to consumer problems at the speed of light. As we’re constantly told, many of these experiments and start-ups will fail. But history shows that those that don’t will disrupt pretty much every market they enter; ramping up the rate of change for everyone.

"Fail fast" won’t always work

So, if "wait and see" is not a workable option, surely the answer is for big companies to act like the speedy small ones that disrupt them. "Act like a start-up and fail fast"—I’m sure you’ve heard it or said it before. But this maxim probably isn’t true.

Of course, you should build a test-and-learn methodology that takes into account customer feedback and the opportunities created by new technology. And, of course, you should be iterative and open in your approach. But if all you do is attempt to beat disruptors with operational and production speed, you’ll lose. You’ll lose because it’s always easier for a small team to act quicker than a big one.

Use your size to your advantage

At Accenture, we believe that established companies’ size, so often cited as a weakness, is actually a secret weapon. As a result, we’ve created an innovation process which aims to help these businesses utilise the power of their brand and internal resources, aligned with customer needs, to create and test new things. These can, in turn, become meaningful products and services through scale.

Here are three key ways you can use your own inherent scale to innovate.

  • Scale as a service: Karmarama’s work with the Unilever Foundry has taught us that scale can be a product in its own right. Through the incubator, start-ups with new technologies can test them at scale with real customers. Unilever receives insights and new ways to talk to consumers, while start-ups get data and validation.

  • Gathering insights: One thing that any start-up would kill for is the insight that customer data at scale brings. Use those insights to develop new hypotheses from data rather than guess work, and use a small section of your vast customer base to test robustly and quickly.

  • Putting experience first: Aligning yourself with customers makes you better able to meet human needs and build compelling experiences. Starting with customers and your brand purpose is always a better way to innovate than starting with the technology, and that’s the focus we take into the start of all our innovation engagements.

Agility and speed are important, but they’re not everything. If you have scale you have data and you have resources; this puts you in a strong competitive position.

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