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    « Google and the interface of everywhere | Main | HR Tech China #2 - Five Things I'm Looking Forward To »
    Tuesday
    May162017

    The half-life of technology-based advantage

    ... keeps getting shorter and shorter.

    Take a look at the chart below which tracks the daily active users of the most recent 'next big thing', Snapchat, against the DAUs for a slightly older 'next big thing', Instagram - specifically Instagram's "Stories" feature, one designed as a pretty blatant copy of Snapchat's core use case.

    Here's the data then three quick points about what it reminds us about technology-driven competitive advantage.

    The chart is a couple of months old, especially for the Snapchat data, but the trends are holding up. Instagram essentially was able to surpass the DAUs of Snapchat's primary feature in less than one year. It is kind of hard to say what this means for Snapchat in the longer term, I imagine they will try and continue to innovate, (and I confess to not being a user of Snapchat, I tried two or three times and could never understand it), and perhaps reverse or at least slow these trends.

    But bigger picture, what does this 'story' (pun intended), remind us of?

    1. Almost every technological advantage can be copied by competitors, and sometimes copied very quickly. Snapchat had a 5-year or so head start and within months that advantage or distinction has disappeared. Technology, consumer or enterprise, is moving, adapting, innovating faster than ever.

    2. When considering/selecting/implementing enterprise tech, (like a new HR Tech solution), "features" or capability probably should not be the most important differentiating criteria. The HR solution providers across a wide range of domains are developing similar capabilities and features and even user experiences. I probably saw demos of four or five new enterprise learning management solutions in the last 18 months and they all look, feel, and act really similarly. In fact, if I had to do a 'blind' test, like the old Pepsi Challenge, I am not sure I would be able to tell them apart. 

    3. So if technological advantage, i.e. features should not be the most important criteria when evaluating technology then what should it be? Well, I know I have opined on this before, but I still submit HR leaders should be carefully evaluating the things that can't be as easily copied across providers. Elements like the implementation experience, customer service and support, the provider's vision of the future, and the extent to which the solution provider sees you as a true partner - in innovation and in business success. These are all critical elements, hard for competitors to copy, and admittedly, harder to assess on an RFP than a list of feature/functions.

    Ok, that's it - I'm out. Going to fire up Instagram. I heard today they copied the 'koala ears' filter from Snapchat. 

    That's what my selfies have been needing.

    Have a great day!

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