Innovation is the most reliable and powerful way to build a successful business, one that is resilient to challenges, economic cycles and changing market conditions. It enables those with the brightest ideas (and ability to execute them) to win over their competition, grab and retain bigger slice of the market, attract best talent and even create brand new pastures, niches and industries.
Examples of this are ubiquitous. Whether you are using an iPhone or an Android mobile, you are looking at a product that didn’t exist a mere decade ago, and has since revolutionised the way we live and work, while making its manufacturer (or at least the manufacturer of its software in the latter case) one of the most profitable companies on Earth in the process.
Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and countless other technology giants are all massively successful examples of the power of innovation. But innovation is not a privilege of selected big global players – all of the giants were small when they started, and grew thanks to their daring visions and ideas. Nor is it limited to massive new inventions that change the entire world in a single sweeping motion.
Quite conversely, successful innovation can be created by any company, applied to any industry, and can be introduced at any scale – today. We do not need to even look far to find examples of successful innovations and companies that vastly benefitted from them – there are plenty of them right here in Wales.
Let me share with you one unlikely example of a company in an industry that is not normally associated with progressive innovation, which is one of the unsung heroes of the Welsh business scene. It is Idwal Marine, a specialist company providing ship inspection services to ship brokers, insurance clubs and commercial banks globally. They are based right around the corner in Cardiff Bay, and have another office in Shanghai, China, with a network of hundreds of surveyors across the world.
Idwal Marine launched the world’s first online ship inspections platform InspectMyShip.com in the autumn of 2016. The platform generates instant quotations for several types of ship inspections in hundreds of ports around the planet. The aim of the system is to streamline the process of obtaining inspection quotations and enable instant purchasing, which triggers an automated process of surveyor booking, and internal workflow that leads to generation of a standardised high-quality report for the client.
Clients can track progress of their surveys, access and share quotations and reports, manage their portfolio of vessels and benefit from a host of industry-specific tools, and value-added services. The platform – designed and built by our Team at IGTS.uk – had a great reception from clients, including the most demanding and valuable banking sector.
The benefits of innovation are well expressed in the words of Nick Owens, Idwal Marine’s Director:
“Creating our online ship inspections platform InspectMyShip.com was a logical step to unlock our further growth capability. The results exceeded our expectations. Not only have we widened our client base, more efficiently addressing the needs of high-value market segments, but we also improved quality, maintained operational costs and healthy margins. The volume is growing constantly – we have never been so busy before – and this shall have a significant impact on this year’s figures.”
The above example shows that digital transformation is within the reach of every company, and that advances in technology (including web and mobile platforms, multichannel marketing, process automation and other specialised software) – when embraced – benefit us all, making it easier to reach wider groups of customers, with more relevant, credible, timely and tailored messages, products and services, that can be performed more efficiently.
Digital systems are just one example of relatively easy to implement change that can revolutionise the experience of our customers – the way they perceive our brand and do business with us – and make us more likely to be selected over our competitors. Internally, well designed systems make us more productive and efficient, reducing operational costs.
I hope that by now we have established beyond reasonable doubt that innovation can help you succeed, regardless of who you are and what you do. The other – and darker – side of the coin is that those who fail to innovate are relegated to the role of passive receivers of changes driven by their competitors. Changes that are usually inconvenient, unexpected, and for which you may not be adequately prepared.
Both established players and new challengers in your space are constantly thinking of new, better and more efficient ways of winning over the hearts, minds and pockets of your customers. Experience shows that in order to remain relevant companies must embrace change and constantly seek better ways of conducting their business.
As Peter Drucker (and Abraham Lincoln before him) said: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” And creating the future gives you a very unique opportunity to shape it in the way that is best for your business – and not for your nearest competitor.
This is what innovation is all about.
About the author
Dr Rafal Goralski has over 20 years of experience in software-based innovation, having created and launched products and technologies that exceeded £100 million in cumulative global sales. Today, as the Managing Director of IGTS.uk – one of Cardiff’s leading digital transformation and software development agencies – Rafal helps companies improve the efficiency, scale and profitability of their operations with clever, beautifully designed and optimally tailored software systems (learn more at www.igts.uk).