When embarking upon an innovation initiative, businesses often choose an emerging technology partner (or three) to guide them. Emerging tech companies often have a deliverable to produce while providing essential expertise and strategy. What distinguishes one tech company from another is their approach and capabilities as they pertain to innovation experiences and partnerships.
Casting agency-like shadows, it’s not uncommon to see tech companies push expansive manifestos about tech defining the future and making the world a better place. It’s intuitive to have their heads in an aspirational space, but what actually drives their work? What defines and measures the order of magnitude return for a business and/or its customers?
Emerging tech companies: Do good, relevant work that adds value for partners. Don’t get frivolous and geocentric.
DON’T put tech in mindless places.
Retrofitting or jamming in tech goes against its very grain. Emerging technologies that solve for something, and drive a new, improved experience demonstrates value. There’s nothing wrong with startups or small shops experimenting with hi-tech toys or time-passing apps.
A lot of projects begin as geeky endeavours, but emerging tech companies worth their bits & atoms can transform simple ideas into meaningful experiences. Because, at the end of the day, changing perceptions and behaviors redefines industries.
Long-standing, dominant brands with significant data points and existing research are prime candidates for an emerging tech partnership. Corporate giants have the information and the resources to evolve. In fact, large brands often come equipped with innovation labs that are tasked with not only moving the company forward, but redefining the market. In short, there is a time, place, and a need for technology.
If a tech integration is forced or lacks real strategy, the market will quickly call out its futility. It might look pretty and spark buzz, but the cool/fun novelty wears off if it’s just a one-off. Users won’t adopt long-term and businesses won’t save, gain, or grow.
DO create scalable solutions that satisfy business goals.
Emerging technology solutions are commonly thought to be consumer-driven and full of complexity. When technology is at its best, however, it provides businesses with simple products/solutions that drive basic consumer behaviors to convert on business goals. For example, to sell more shoes, create an AR retail experience that shows what shoes would look like on your feet. Or, to sell more vacation packages, leverage a VR 360 video that helps users tour the destination.
Analytics and measurement are necessary and great, but it takes more than numbers to create solutions that scale and satisfy both short and long term business goals. Emerging technology companies must commit to:
- Engaging users via interview, questionnaires/surveys, targeted research
- Asking business questions, then arranging the whole experience to answer those questions with data (not just tag apps).
- Ensuring KPIs span all digital properties
DON’T lead with prototypes or base strategy on fads.
It’s far too often companies rest on cool prototype laurels. Companies who tout “pro-prototype” or follow a “react-trendy” model tend to be ego-centered. They focus on their own boldness rather than user desires and partner objectives (akin to ad agencies who do edgy work to win awards, not deliver on client goals).
There’s nothing wrong with prototypes. It’s a work in progress launch point. The bigger investment is in learnings from back-and-forth communication, iteration, and discovery. Before and after prototype is when rewarding partnerships and mutually thrilling results are realized.
A longer term strategy that can expand, evolve, and remain nimble is the way to go–but doesn’t come easy. It requires:
- A project/build roadmap longer than a year with a foundation that can evolve with new technology
- Tools that offer longevity. Don’t “burn the house down” to rebuild
- Removal of legacy components that impede easy, regular updates
- Trust and stock in phased, iterative processes
- Timely feature audits to introduce new and sunset unused features
Anticipating challenges takes time and sincerity
Businesses know they want to go to market in a timely manner. What they don’t know or anticipate are many of the obstacles that can occur on the tech build journey. Hardware delays are a great example. Exposing these potential detours upfront is crucial. Explaining prevention and response tactics is critical.
Anyone in the tech field is well aware of the inevitability of hardware delays (among many other glitches, hiccups, pitfalls, and booby traps within coding platforms, and devices). For business partners who sell sneakers, run online education programs, or build custom pools, understanding these challenges is a vital part of the learning curve.
DO define the work in terms successful user and partner experience.
Simplicity drives user satisfaction and preference. The best, most unified user experiences lead with a clean interface. No user wants to relive or feel any aftershocks of the technical complexity that went into the development. Similarly, no partner wants to dig down into technical minutiae without clear context and a solution to the challenge. Continuity and respect play into both user and partner experiences.
User Experience: Experiences > Products
Building a continuous user experience requires not only fully-integrated design and development, but respect.
- Users expect to move seamlessly between digital elements and devices.
- The movement between apps, web, digital assistants, and even IoT devices has to flow effortlessly.
- User communication within the experience needs consistency (e.g. alerts and notifications should compliment email campaigns and other messaging).
- Make it easy for users to get started quickly.
- Honor users’ expectations of privacy by clearly stating how their data is used.
Partner Experience: Partnerships > Work Orders
Many businesses don’t even realize they might have to hire multiple emerging tech companies to get the job done. And, unfortunately, sometimes they have to hire another company to fix the failed attempts of another. Defining the experience and the expectations upfront can lead to significant time, cost, and mental health preservation for both all parties.
Some tech companies build things. Some provide a design/product strategy. Some bring it all together to discover, design, and release experiences into the wild. It is the emerging tech partner’s responsibility to honestly and clearly layout their capabilities before starting the work. The delivered innovation is not the only experience being built–the partnership build is happening in tandem. When it comes to long-term relationships and impactful solutions, there is no situation where just one experience succeeds or fails.
The world is changing with or without your ideas.
No one can claim providing solutions, being a strong partner, and delivering on capabilities is easy. Focusing on what’s in plain view and brainstorming ideas around fun, unexpected ways to “pivot, keep it fresh, and make it pop” is not always a bad thing. But that horizon is always a stone’s throw.
Emerging technology companies, and any other companies providing a service, need to empathize and evolve with both users and partners. Concepts and ideas can start the fire, but solutions and experiences heat the home.