Just as the democratization of content empowers individuals, so does it impact companies. New technologies are allowing businesses of all kinds to reinvent themselves. Consider the entertainment industry. In the earliest days of movie-making, studios owned everything—the actors, the directors, production and distribution. Television disrupted that model, bringing new programming directly into people’s living rooms. Then cable served up a seemingly endless array of choices. But expensive, all-you-can-watch programming menus don’t cut it in a world where personalization is the surest route to audience happiness.
Incredible things can happen when content aggregators become creators. One of most watchable shows I’ve seen in a long time is a new seriesproduced by and for Netflix called “House of Cards.” Starring Kevin Spacey, (one of my favorite actors), as a ruthless Washington politician, it’s an action-packed gem of rich characterization, intense emotion, and plot twists galore. He and his wife, played by Robin Wright, make a deliciously wicked power couple. Netflix is on to something. In search of quality programming? Produce it yourself.
Remember Amazon, the world’s online superstore? It’s now a television production company. Amazon Studios is producing six original comedy series pilots to be aired on Amazon Instant Video. Taking personalization one step further, Amazon will decide which series to continue producing based on real-time audience feedback.
Of course the upside of branching out from a company’s core competency is the synergies. Google TV brings entertaining programming to people by using all of the company’s major technologies. Developers build applications on the Android operating system. Viewers can watch television shows and browse the internet using Google’s Chrome browser. Android (and Apple) smartphones double as remote controls for Google TV. Using the company’s own technologies keeps more profits in the family.
Reinvention can beg the question of what business a company is in. Apple is exploring a computer you wear on your wrist. Does that make them a watch-maker or a technology company, or both? Who cares as long as it reduces the number of devices we have to carry around. This last is really the whole point. The only thing that matters is what the customer cares about—how the product changes his or her life for the better.
My own employer, SAP, has reinvented itself from back-office ERP software purveyor to become a real-time platform company delivering break-through technologies that are transforming business. SAP is now front and center helping companies reshape business models for sustainable growth. Boldly exploring new business territories is no longer an option but a necessity for market leadership. What’s more, we simply cannot afford to just leave everything to the so-called experts. More companies are realizing that if you want something done right, you just might have to do it yourself.