Innovate or Die!


By Samuel Greengard

A lot has been written about how and why businesses lose loyal customers. There are many obvious reasons, including cutting too many corners, pricing products wrong, and delivering mediocre service and support.

But the biggest threat these days is actually none of the above. It's failure to innovate. Both B2C and B2B customers now demand a level of flexibility and agility that would have been unthinkable a decade ago. As a result, business and IT leaders must think in radically different ways.

Case in point: a couple of weeks ago, an application that I rely on for project management, DevonThink Pro, went haywire. I had placed the database in Dropbox so I could sync it with my laptop (though I was never able to get the syncing feature to work correctly). Unfortunately, the program overwrote the database with an empty file and nearly a decade of records went MIA. Oddly, all the backup files on my network-attached storage and on the Internet were also unrecoverable.

Ouch squared.

DevonThinkPro is a wonderful program, but I no longer use it. Not because I'm upset with the company—though this type of problem shouldn't happen. And not because I couldn't create a new database and triple check to make sure that it's backing up correctly. Faced with starting over and creating a new database from scratch, I realized that DevonThink was no longer the shiniest tool in the shed.

Instead, I migrated to a different program, Evernote, because it offers far greater simplicity and flexibility, along with a vastly better cloud-syncing feature. It enables me to view all my project management information anywhere, anytime and on any device.

This process occurs across the business landscape every day and applies to all sorts of products and situations. Software vendors and others can create all the stickiness they want. They can also make switching to another program a broken-glass and barbed-wire proposition.

However, at some point, customers inevitably reach a tipping point where, if a product, service or solution lags too far behind, they'll switch to something newer, better, and/or more flexible and innovative. And that's more likely to happen when something goes wrong.

That's business squared in the digital economy.