We talk a lot about getting an edge over your competition through technology – but what if you are competing against something that hasn’t been invented? Some of the most traditional markets have been comprehensively disrupted by new ideas that left existing businesses flat-footed. Collaboration often plays a key role in turning markets on their heads – or making them disappear. So what is collaboration, and how do you compete against something you can’t see?
One of the highest profile collaboration ventures is Airbnb, now the world’s biggest accommodation vendor – even though it owns no physical hotels. Effectively, Airbnb is a community marketplace, with a system that facilitates transactions between people seeking accommodation and those with a room to let out for short stays. Airbnb provides the booking, messaging and payment systems. The company’s released statistics show that by May 2015, Airbnb customers were booking half a million rooms per night.
Of course, Airbnb is just one example of a newcomer that has invented a digitised solution to a traditional market. Anything from taxi services to currency exchange is now undergoing transformation. Few industries can be considered immune to collaborative challengers. This is why established businesses should be putting serious thought, effort and resources into digitisation themselves. And they should be doing it now, not waiting until new competition is already there.
Although new contenders have the advantage of agility, without the weight of company history, existing market leaders have some strengths on their side too. Relationships, systems of record, and stability for starters. We’ve talked about the need for business transformation to be a priority for any organisation as an ongoing strategy, and this is one way to immunise against new competition.
Those established systems of record are a vital weapon. They hold the key to understanding customers and markets. Those already using advanced analytics strategies have an extraordinary depth of customer understanding, and are using it to devise services and communications that have a very high chance of success. New start-ups lack that history, and getting in first gives them less room to disrupt. It also makes life harder for your existing competition, making it a win-win for your organisation.
Of course, there is also no reason you shouldn’t use collaboration yourself to pre-empt any competitive strike. Well, no reason except keeping the lights on and focusing on the day-to-day needs of your business. Getting your systems in order is still one of the essentials – or, for some, offloading some of the day-to-day in favour of getting to grips with the market disrupting innovations that allow your own business to reinvent itself.
As we’ve seen from the likes of Uber and Airbnb, even the most traditional industries are well and truly open to challenge. Maybe, armed with an ongoing program of business transformation and a better knowledge of customers, you are positioned to beat the newcomers at their own game.
For more about business transformation, or getting the right IT foundation for innovation, contact our friendly Computer Merchants experts.

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