May 18, 2016

Digital transformation, a means to an end

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While spending some time in Rio for facilitating a business case training, I got to see quite a lot of surfers (mostly before work hours, mind you). At the same time, I came across a video about the Samsung Galaxy Surfboard. The video shows a surfboard with a LED display, enabling the surfer to check weather and water conditions, like the frequency of waves, and to receive text messages. It’s a nice example of how technology can be integrated in just about any aspect of our life.

This demonstrates how digital transformation is blending online and offline worlds, or analog and digital worlds, into a single human experience. It shows how technology has become a powerful enabler for improving our lives. But technology still is just that: an enabler.

What problem are you solving?

If Samsung were to commercialise this augmented surfboard, it would probably have to be more than just a technology gadget in order to reach a large audience and be profitable. This triggers the core question that any new product or service faces: what problem do you solve?

  • The coach’s problem of not being able to give the surfer real time advice on his moves?
  • The surfer’s problem of not having detailed information about weather and water conditions that he is unable to sense himself?
  • The fans’ problem of not being able to encourage their favourite surfer?

Depending on the problem you focus on, the implementation, target market, marketing approach and pricing will be very different:

  • Coaches compose a relatively small target market, so they would have to be willing to pay a relatively large price for the product (this price can be money, but also something like having to choose Samsung as a sponsor over another brand).
  • Fans constitute a potentially much larger user base, that may be willing to pay a small price for a smartphone app to send text messages to the surfer’s board.

Is it a real problem?

When guiding innovation initiatives, I often see a lot of creativity around inventing additional features, based on what technology can offer. It’s a fun and important part of the innovation process, but you have to protect yourself from implementing all these features right away, because you risk spreading your energy too thinly and wasting a and money.

First try to identify the problem each of these features solves and validate whether each problem really exists. How important is it for your target customer, the one you identified as having this problem, to have this problem solved? This will be an indicator for potential market value.

42% of startup failures are caused by the lack of a market need: these startups were wrong in the key assumption: that someone needed the solution at all.

Is your technology a feature or a solution, and what problem does it solve?


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