Doing it digitally—How tech-charged customer collaboration delivers market innovation

The digital business delivers more innovative, connected products to market by leveraging collaboration technology that breaks down silos separating product lines, teams and regions, and connects both internal and external customers.

innovation ideas blueprint planning lightbulb
Thinkstock

When Under Armour, a major player in the performance apparel market, adopted 3D printing technology to make insoles on demand, it shortened the design-to-sale cycle from six months to two days and disrupted a manufacturing process that hadn't changed in 60 years. It was just one more step in a digital transformation that began with connecting shoes to fitness-tracking apps. Now connected shoes collect Internet of Things (IoT) data that informs design.

Under Armour's innovation strategy leverages cross-functional collaboration technology to connect internal design, marketing, product and category management teams. Powerful analytics have changed the way teams ask and answer questions, allowing them to partner with internal and external innovators to deliver unexpected value to customers.

This is one of dozens of stories about how companies are going digital to develop connected, differentiated products that can outpace competitive offerings. To accelerate delivery, you need to break down the silos between your product development and IT organizations and, as Forrester advises in The Digital Business Imperative, create a web of tech-enabled services that connect customers both inside and outside of your organization.

In today's digital business, tech-enabled collaboration results in the kind of uninhibited problem-solving that delivers extraordinary innovation to market. Success requires an unprecedented level of coordination across products, services, resources, applications, geographies and more. To get there, you need to digitize your internal processes and tools in ways that transform the way work gets done.

Break down barriers to product innovation

Your collaboration tools are critical to capturing and analyzing data that can inspire successful, customer-centric products. A digital strategy that crosses all boundaries allows creative collaboration with customers from the front-end of the commercialization process through every stage—prioritization, security, testing, pricing, in-market feedback, supply chain, etc. Then those insights can feed back into the product pipeline to drive value. 

This collaborative process delivers new value when it produces products that were previously unimaginable. These are the products customers don't know they want, delivered so far ahead of the competition, they're virtually alone on the shelves. For a high-impact launch that's just far enough ahead of the trends, let your digital transformation take you into uncharted territory—like using an Apple watch for biometric banking with Capital One or medication management with Walgreens.

Look at how GOJO, the inventors of PURELL, developed an IoT application that monitors hand sanitizer use in hospitals. The app tracks hand hygiene compliance to help hospitals prevent hospital-acquired infections, which kill nearly 100,000 people every year. GOJO's monitors feed data to an analytics platform, then reports usage rates to facility managers through web and mobile portals. By connecting stakeholders across organizational lines, GOJO created an inventive solution that can save lives.

When digital initiatives directly touch and impact every part of the business, internal collaboration is essential. And that means leveraging the right technology. It simply doesn’t make sense to attempt delivery of digital products using everyday desktop tools. You have to step up your game to deliver innovation to market.

Leverage the latest collaboration technology

The digital business deploys an enterprise-wide platform for collaborative work management, enabling teams to converge products and technology, like connected shoes and smart PURELL dispensers. By combining online team collaboration tools with powerful project management software, you can manage products and projects more effectively and efficiently and leverage powerful collaboration tools to supercharge the innovation cycle.

To be leveraged internally and externally, collaborative technology needs to be:

  • Dead simple.Customers can sign in with email addresses and use it right away.
  • People like using the engaging and friendly interface, creating a positive user experience.
  • A mobile app lets customers sign in anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Your customer collaboration platform should work like your favorite Swiss army knife, simply doing what needs to be done, with no frills or needless instructions. It can cut across silos to connect every department in companies where digital transformation strategies are underway. A platform like this can help companies communicate and collaborate with the internal and external stakeholders who are impacted by changing product imperatives.

In the connected, digital business, technology is transforming the way work gets done. There are more ways than ever for an organization to deliver value to customers. The challenge is to channel your digital transformation to deliver innovations that were never before possible. When you leverage enterprise-wide collaboration technology, you will free your teams from their silos and open the door to the next connected product innovation.

This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?

SUBSCRIBE! Get the best of CIO delivered to your email inbox.