The Services Industry Is Not Getting Its Return from Investing in Innovation | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

At the request of a BPO provider, we did a fairly exhaustive study of all vendor/provider-funded innovations and their impact on the business growth. The data were startling. Our study clearly revealed that the hundreds of millions of dollars that providers invested in innovation yielded very disappointing returns. Although they often succeeded in taking their innovations to market, they realized only scanty returns and not the kind of return that creates a differentiated accelerated growth. Why is that? Were their hopes too ambitious?

The biggest culprit in the poverty of their return on investments is that those investments didn’t have the necessities for success built into their DNA. What was missing? In many cases innovation initiatives don’t resonate with existing and prospective clients because they simply don’t meet the clients’ needs. In other cases the offerings require a different kind of sales discussion as the provider tries to sell something the client isn’t looking to buy. In both cases this creates a difficult sell and largely proves unsuccessful.

Strategy for innovation that leads to business growth

As I explained in a previous blog post about innovation agendas, these disappointing outcomes from provider-funded innovation initiatives often start with trying to design a solution for multiple clients rather than innovating on a single client’s defined needs. Providers fall into the seduction of believing it makes sense that just because one client wants a particular innovation other clients also will want it that way.

Further, building things in a vacuum away from a client is not helpful and tends to result in outcomes that are off target.

The path to innovation that accelerates growth lies with the provider working closely with clients to define their needs and then bringing the provider’s capabilities to meet those needs. It’s a powerful strategy that results in much deeper client satisfaction.

It also allows a provider to deal with the issue of changing influence structures that we’ve noted in previous blog posts, where the business stakeholder is now more influential in defining a client’s business needs and driving investment and work that goes to third parties.

Providers that interact with business stakeholders to address their needs find the effort pans out and they can move to more impactful innovations that the client will be ready to fund.

And that’s a recipe for explosive growth.


Photo credit: Matter Photography

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