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Surprising Partnerships and Product Direction

A small startup textile company and BAE Systems winning a contract to provide the US Department of Defense with a few million dollars worth of “smart” uniforms.

 A car company and a hi-tech device and app company (yes, Apple) possibly partnering around batteries.

 Social needs-focused and micro-loan visionary Grameen Bank partnering with BASF, Adidas, and Danone to deliver low-cost, innovative products for money and social good.

Surprising Partnerships and Product Development

Technology and the new world of information visibility[1] are bringing together industries and companies considered disparate a decade ago. Wearables – clothing with embedded technology – are combining traditional clothing companies with high-tech supply chains and software development companies. Indeed, it seems our voracious demands for data collection is driving app development and connectivity options for most activities in life and work.

If you are not already considering how your business might connect with other industries, you should. You may have heard people say that now “every business is a digital business.” While this may sound extreme, regardless of your business, you should consider how to weave technology into your core business and use it to create innovative partnerships. Your competitors are.

How you integrate technology into your business depends on your business. However, we can identify some key areas where technology should be considered and can lead to expansion, improvement, or disruption. 

  • Connections. How could your product or service be connected to the Internet of Things or a private (company) cloud? What would this look like and what are the benefits to the company or to customers?
  • Customer Interactions. How do your customers interact with your products? In what spaces? Consider opportunities to connect with peripheral industries or infrastructure in those spaces.
  • Product Development and Manufacturing. Can you lower costs, increase quality, or improve volume output in your product design and manufacturing processes by adopting more advanced technologies? An example: human-robot collaborations are driving into spaces beyond the traditional manufacturing floor. Another easy example: 3D printers are changing product design cycles and manufacturing possibilities while also potentially disrupting the company-consumer market by allowing more control to shift to the customer.
  • Big Data. Yes, we hear the term and it can be mystifying and vague. What do we do with big data? If you are unsure about the concept, consider a primer.[2] But, for our discussion, big data pushes analytics. The data you are collecting (or should be) about your internal processes, product development, customer support, and customers can be analyzed in more detailed, directed, and immediate ways. The purpose of data is to provide information you need to make important decisions. If you don’t know how data (or what data) is being collected in your processes and business, find out. Make a list of data collection points and see where the gaps in collection are as well as opportunities for analysis. To start, consider your PLM, ERP, CRM, and other core enterprise systems and then branch out to department-level systems and processes.

Still not sure how technology plays in your business or cross-industry opportunities? Look at Intel’s “make it wearable” incubator program, a push to drive this type of thinking. Consider Copenhagen Wheel’s reinvention of the wheel, something we were all told not to do. Think differently.  Perhaps entertain the notion of an unlikely partner.

[1] Information visibility generally refers to the process of collecting and sharing data. In the context of the Internet of Things and the web, this definition describes the availability of much-collected data on objects, people, and actions. In addition, this term has been used to refer to the requirement of supply chain sharing of critical data.
[2] Many articles have been written on big data. Some of the better include the more IT-focused Gartner posting clarifying the concept of “3Vs” originally put forward as early as 2001 by META and the more business-oriented article “Big Data: The Management Revolution” by Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson in the October 2012 Harvard Business Review.