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Following the customer: How tech leaders can learn from Alphabet and Meta

Why tech leaders should think about the changing needs of their customers

It is a fact that up to half of the world’s largest companies will not exist in 10 years’ time.

Driven by digital, the world is moving at an increasing rate, and even if a company is highly profitable and successful right now, if it stays still, the chances are that customers will find other products, services or technologies that can satisfy their needs in the future.

This constantly changing focal point of how and where organisations can add value is now a permanent feature of the world.

Big tech platform expansion

The provision of a portfolio of products and services that can meet the changing needs of customers has driven the remarkable growth of digital platform businesses – tech giants like Meta and Alphabet.

Both started out offering one primary service before expanding into other, related services, but always keeping the customer central to what they do. It’s a model that can unlock significant opportunity and growth. For example, research from MIT Sloan found that digital platform companies were twice as profitable and more than twice as valuable as their more conventional businesses.

Following the customer

This ability to “follow the customer” and provide clients with relevant solutions across a connected portfolio of needs doesn’t need to be confined to “pure” tech.

For businesses in, or connected to, the technology sector, having the agility and nimbleness to match services to customers’ changing needs is essential. Cyber security, for example, has become a major area of need that is hampered by acute skills shortages – so we have developed a virtual CISO practice in response. 

Through adopting this model and developing a platform of related services, there is a greater opportunity for rapid growth.

A culture of collaboration

Most important of all is to build a common culture and purpose among your teams, which is founded on collaboration in the interests of the customer. That culture comes through myriad things: communication from the top, good line management and operational (and social) interaction. When staff feel they belong to one uniting organisation, then teamwork and collaboration will naturally build between the component parts.

The point you want to get to is where team members are not asking themselves, “How can I sell more of X to client Y?” but rather, “What issues and challenges is client Y trying to solve – and how can we help them from across the services in our businesses?” Collaboration between business teams – workshopping, brainstorming, activity planning – can then bring the best of each service line to create solutions really focused on individual clients.

More than the sum of the parts

A business that has a culture aligned to its clients’ needs and that can bring the power of its different brands into play to help meet them will achieve more success and grow more quickly than a mono-line organisation centred around just one capability.

I believe this is one of the secrets behind the growth of the giant tech platforms. They know that when you work together to solve things, the power is exponentially higher. That is certainly our aim.

Whatever specific line your business is in, think about what “following the customer” means for you. What are your customers’ lifecycles, what needs do they have and at what different stages – and how are you innovating to service those?

Develop a portfolio that can flex and adapt to meet customer needs, and strengthen the coherence of your offerings by building collaborative work patterns among your teams. You may never achieve the extraordinary market penetration of an Alphabet or a Meta, but you could propel your business on a faster trajectory of growth.

Bev White is CEO at Nash Squared, which has changed its name from Harvey Nash Group

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