Rich Napoli Speaker Series event

Rich Napoli, CEO of Object Frontier Software, speaks to members of the Greater Alpharetta Tech Network Oct. 15 about surviving in a fast-paced digital world.

ALPHARETTA, Ga. – When ride-sharing company Uber first arrived in the taxi-cab industry, were they recognized as a disruptive force? Probably not immediately. But now, using a mix of the right technology and the right idea, they have been able to make inroads in what was once a solid business.

Such shake-ups in industry happen regularly, and, thanks to the digital revolution, they can affect everyone with a business.

“There isn’t a single industry not affected by this,” said Rich Napoli, CEO of Object Frontier Software. “[Digital] disruption is happening across virtually every industry.”

Napoli was speaking Oct. 15 to an audience of tech industry leaders in Alpharetta for a meeting of the Greater Alpharetta Tech Network, a social and networking group, at the Microsoft Conference Center in Alpharetta. He said the advent of fast-paced digital content that can be made by anyone with an idea can and should frighten established industries – change is coming whether you want it or not.

And if you don’t change with it, you will go extinct.

“There is a lot of active disruption [in the business world],” he said. “New companies are targeting companies that were successful in the past and changing the rules.”

To take the Uber example, taxis and technology do not necessarily go hand-in-hand, he said. But someone with an idea decided to utilize smartphone technology – data resources, geolocation and social capabilities – to make everyone with a phone a potential taxi driver. This has thrown the taxi industry into a spin few could have seen coming.

That, said Napoli, is the point – no one sees extinction coming until it is too late. The trick is to stay ahead of the game and keep yourself changing.

The business world and the way consumers look at meeting their needs have changed. Like it or not, companies like iTunes and Netflix have changed customer behavior. A customer has a certain expectation of service – service now – that is spreading into all sectors of business. Smartphones allow this to happen quickly.

“The digital revolution affects all industries,” Napoli said.

To keep fast and nimble, Napoli suggests taking an “outside-in” approach.

“Don’t start with ‘I have this to sell, I need to figure out how to sell it.’ Understand what your customers want. What are they doing and how can you help them?”

Businesses need to realize the entire chain of action that leads a customer to their product and figure out how to provide a service to streamline that chain.

Napoli suggested creating an innovation lab entirely dedicated to rethinking everything about a product or business.

Otherwise, someone with a new app will eventually come along.

“You are not just competing against your competitors,” he said, “but everyone who has an idea.”

 

Originally Published on Forsyth Herald 

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