Want to be a disruptor? Forget technology, focus on the customer - exec

The key challenge for businesses today is not to master new technologies, but to solve the "wicked problems" they and their customers face in an increasingly complex environment.

This is according to Petra Sundström, Head of Digital Business Development, Crushing & Screening at Sandvik, the Stockholm-based engineering group specialising in tooling, materials technology, mining and construction. The group employs some 42 000 people in 160 countries.

These "wicked problems" may be presented by "incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements" that can also be difficult to recognise, Sundström added.

Sundström was speaking at the Digital Difference in Manufacturing convention in Sandviken, Sweden, earlier in May. The event was co-hosted by Microsoft and Sandvik.

'Uber did not kill taxis'

Being competitive is "no longer about technology alone", Sundström told delegates.

Citing examples of key disruptors, she said it was a mistake to label technology itself as a disruptor.

"Netflix did not kill Blockbuster. Ridiculous late fees did," she said. "Uber did not kill taxis. Limited access and fare control did.

"Apple did not kill the music industry. Being forced to buy full-length albums did. Amazon did not kill other retailers. Poor customer experience did.

"Airbnb isn't killing the hotel industry. Limited availability and pricing options are."

Technology not the disruptor

Where customers had a need that was not being met, something could fill the vacuum, she suggested. "Technology by itself is not the disruptor. Not being customer-centric is the biggest threat to any business."

Businesses that want to be disruptive must take into account the political, economic, social, technological, and environmental aspects of their environment, she explained, as well as key legal factors, she added.

Additionally, she said, many businesses today face the complex challenge of having not just direct competitors, but multiple layers of competition – some of which they may not immediately consider or be aware of.

"We need to listen to our customers but also play the game strategically," she said.

*Fin24 was hosted by Microsoft and Sandvik in Sweden.

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