1. They use technology to implement and monitor business initiatives
Have you ever wondered why your recent sales, marketing, or operations initiative failed to have the impact you hoped? Is it possible that though the initiative was well thought-out and should have been successful, it failed simply because your employees didn’t actually implement it? Your competitors keep this kind of problem from happening by using software solutions to enforce, track, and guide the implementation of their initiatives. That way, they know if it’s actually being followed to its fullest, and they can correct any issues along the way instead of waiting until the end of the quarter to track their initiative’s impact.
2. They drive innovation and marketing by discovering knowledge from business data
Both you and your competitors have a wealth of information about past sales, project results, employee performance, etc. But your competitors are data mining that information right now to discover trends that aren’t obvious to the “naked eye”, and are then building their business plans around those newly discovered hidden trends. Making decisions from your gut has its place, but in this decade, it’s all about data-backed decisions (read “Super Crunchers” for more insight). If you could provide hard science to back up your decisions, what would it do for your business?
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3. They attract top employees by providing easy to use software
As more of your workforce becomes Generation-Y or “Millennial”, it’s going to be harder to attract top talent if your business tools aren’t up to snuff. Your competitors know this, and aren’t asking their new recruits (who grew up with Wii, Google, and Facebook) to use dated mainframe applications or (even worse) paper to accomplish their daily tasks. Your competitors have heard the complaints from these new, bright individuals, and aren’t taking the risk that these employees will leave their firm because “comfortable” technology is so important to them. Are your business tools made up of “comfortable” technology for Millennials?
4. They use technology to keep from making mistakes and losing customers
What causes you to lose customers? Is it because they get a lower price quote elsewhere, or because your company makes a mistake and the customer loses faith? Your competitors are using technology solutions to reduce the amount of mistakes their employees make when working with customers, and are therefore less likely to lose their customers. Do your best customers care if they could get a lower price elsewhere, or do they stick with your because of other reasons (service quality, product quality). Would they continue to stick with you – or start making price an issue – if they were the “victim” of a mistake?
5. They reduce costs through automation
If there’s anything global outsourcing has taught us, it’s that labor costs are a prime target to look at when trying to reduce costs. Your competitors are implementing business solutions that allow them to reduce or migrate headcount, because instead of requiring 10 people to process incoming paper forms, they have 2 people who work with a software tool that does most of the work for them. Or, by routing information to the right people at the right time, they’re able to transfer the people who formerly had to do that routing manually into other areas where they can be more effective. Do you have extra headcount because you are processing your information manually? What does that headcount cost you in a year?
Overall, these five items are the main things your competitors are doing right now to get a leg up on you in the market. While it’s likely that your company is doing some of these things right now, are you doing all of them? Are you successfully innovating with technology? What would it cost your business if your competitors are doing all of these things, but you were only doing some of them? Is that a problem you’d like to fix?