In the information era, software doesn’t just drive business, it makes and breaks business. The traditional business strategies that used to work year after year are now resulting in slimmer and slimmer sales. Customers are more demanding than ever for companies to meet their digital-world needs. Information is a click away, and when your business can’t react quickly, it is left in the dust. It’s not just demanding customers, it’s competition. The world is more connected than ever, and competition is fierce and global. The playing field is leveling, and companies just a few years old can stare down goliath’s of industry.
Why is that?
Two words: Internal Innovation
When you see a company’s growth and sales grow, while their competitors stifle or sputter out, you are likely witnessing the results of a company’s internal innovation. More likely than not, that growing company took a good, hard look at itself and said “You know what, I don’t want to stand still anymore. I want to be different… unique… better than all the others.”
That company decided to act, not necessarily by changing its end product, but itself - its process, its people, its nature. That company decided to internally innovate, something that would set itself apart from all it’s competitors.
Internal innovation comes in many forms, but a common component of that innovation is through software. Software is involved because it can help answer that introspective question: “How can we be more efficient?” So when you’re pushing for your company to innovate, and you see a potential opportunity to increase efficiency, you may find yourself choosing the software option. As you will read, exactly how this software comes into existence within your business, and the choices made to include it will likely have a drastic effect on the actual result of your efforts.
Just “a Click Away” #
“Did you know, there’s an app for that?” It’s more common than ever to find yourself presented with a wide array of options for software. Systems small and large offer a seemingly unending plethora of features. For consumer’s, software for straight-forward tasks is just a click to the app store away. When it comes to business, however, the software apps can typically take a larger step to being more complex.
On the consumer level, tasks and software seem straight-forward: Track my health, wake me up, save that event, play some music. In business however, personal issues are out the window, and business use-cases will outnumber the stars. The reason, businesses are different, they don’t have human needs, they have specific business needs. By specific, I mean very specific, down to the individual company.
Where you see business apps is where there is common ground between businesses:
- Most businesses need a cashier, so there’s software to help with cashiering.
- Most businesses need to communicate, so there’s voice and chat software.
- Most businesses need to send the distribution team a notice when the invoice is only over 0.56% margin but only if the sales date is before March and it doesn’t fall on a Tuesday…
Oh wait… there isn’t software for that.
You see, everything’s always great until you start getting into the actual details of how a business actually runs.
The Truth Hurts #
Here’s the thing. You want to internally innovate, right? You want to do something different from your competitors? Well, what good does it do to leverage the same tools off the shelf? If your competitor has the same rickety hammer as you do, are either of you really going nail any faster? If you and your competitor are deciding to improve in the exact same way, is there really any innovation?
Trade Secrets & Software #
True internal innovation is hand-in-hand with doing things differently. Not only that, but the best internal innovation is never shared with competitors. Having something that your competitors can never know about that improves your efficiency is business gold.
Software is a form of business IP (Intellectual Property) and when you’re choosing to have a software component as part of your internal innovation efforts, it might be wise to ask, “who’s IP is this?” Is it actually the IP of software peddler selling it to anyone willing to pay, including your competitors? Or is it yours and only yours?
These days it’s so common to hear about IP protections like copyrights, trademarks, and patents, but these are very public protections. Something not often talked about is the timeless, luxury, trade secret. A trade secret is IP that you do not disclose publicly. Like other IP protections, a trade secret can be protected through the legal system, and is a legitimate form of IP protection.
The benefit of a trade secret is that it’s yours, and only yours. You’re not announcing it to the world, you’re not sharing it with everyone, no, it’s your gold nugget of innovation that’s just for you. In my opinion, it’s one of the best results of true internal innovation.
Will you get a trade secret by buying off-the-market apps, most certainly not. So what can you do?
Well, you can choose to create.
Creating software doesn’t mean you actually need to do the construction. In fact, if your business isn’t a software company, it’s generally a bad idea to do it yourself. Instead, focus on ensuring that software created fits your business like a glove, that it truly addresses your efforts of internal innovation, and you will see a change for the better. You will see your business stand out from the crowd and succeed.