The “Race to Parity.” The fallacy of “where have you done this before?”

Just six small words.... that in over 20 years of working with technology companies have featured on virtually every Invitation to Tender, or Request for Proposal, I've ever submitted: "Where have you done this before?" Or perhaps: "Please provide 2 Case Study examples where you have implemented your proposed offering to similar sized organisations in our industry..." .....

Just six small words…. that in over 20 years of working with technology companies have featured on virtually every Invitation to Tender, or Request for Proposal, I’ve ever submitted:

“Where have you done this before?”

Or perhaps:

“Please provide 2 Case Study examples where you have implemented your proposed offering to similar sized organisations in our industry…”

….. and now reflecting on the sentiment behind them, they could be some of the dumbest questions ever asked by any business executive of their potential technology provider.

You see, in the introduction to these procurement documents, there is almost always a statement in which technology is referred to as “a core strategic asset of the business, a key differentiator, an enabler”. So why ask a question that, at best, gets you to parity – that of its nature stifles the innovative value that technology can bring – while your competitor is considering their next leap forward? This “Race to Parity” is, surely a component factor of why the productivity of so many corporations has recently declined.

Of course, ensuring that a technology partner is credible is key to confidence a solution will be implemented – but it may be time to change the credibility question to:

“Please show where you have helped organisations to reshape or disrupt their business – bringing about positive and differentiated change.”

One of the key arguments for many recent technology solutions and services has been the stable bedrock; the solid platform from which you can grow – while you differentiate on the things you are good at – like branding; go to market messaging; your people etc……. But in today’s globally interconnected, digital, economies, narrowing the opportunity to differentiate to just parts of your business will probably not be enough. To survive, and grow, organisations need to think beyond their current competitive landscape and embrace the “disruptive” thinking that will help shape their future success and survival.

Consider the case of Nokia, who in 2007 were the clear mobile device market leader. They sold more than 60m units per annum and had 52% market share at the point when Apple introduced their iPhone. The iPhone didn’t just revolutionise the market on the basis of form and function, critically Apple redefined the business model for content delivery. In just 5 years Nokia’s share had plummeted to below 5% and the business announced the sale of their mobile phones division in 2013. For a business, like Nokia, that had successfully transformed itself, multiple times, from Pulp and Paper, to Electricity Generation; Cables; Electronics; Rubber and Communications in its 150 year history – the pace of decline in this digital market was undoubtedly a shock.

“In all affairs it’s a healthy thing, now and then, to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.” – Bertrand Russell

We think that executives need to see the process of differentiation as extending beyond the roles of marketing, product development and sales into all functions of their business. Administration, distribution, sales, marketing, research and development, production, legal etc.. all offer innovative opportunities for a company to outflank their completion, to gain an edge, to grow faster and to secure market share. As digital technologies, AI, the “internet of things” and robotics continue to mature, thinking disruptively about your business and your markets has never been more important in ensuring growth and perhaps your survival.

In that context it may well be time to dispense with “where have you done this before”, and replace it with something altogether more aspirational.

At Periphas, we help our clients to create transformational, innovative, opportunities. We provocatively position the value your innovative portfolio brings to customers in a challenging, personalised and original way. We do this by connecting you to the senior executives of your “dream” target businesses; and, through rigorous comparative analysis, we illustrate to them, the business value your portfolio can deliver.

Why not contact us at [email protected] to see how we can help you.


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