UPFRONT Charting blue oceans

The innovative push needed to stay one step ahead in competitive markets is something Zeacom business development manager Ken Brickley knows all about. But now he reckons the company’s found whole new “blue ocean” of opportunity.
It all has to do with birthday present, best-selling business book and previously neglected “stepchild” technology that Zeacom is launching in New Zealand this month. What Brickley describes as “corporate voicemail application on steroids” allows cellphone users to hook into customised voicemail system normally only available to business or call centre applications.
It means that people who are put through to voicemail can get reply specifically targeting them – allowing important customers, friends or relatives who are ringing from an identifiable number to get more personal response than the standard “x is currently not available”.
Why Zeacom – 10-year-old New Zealand company whose market niche as provider of contact centre and enterprise messaging solutions for SMEs has generated expansion into offshore markets – should move into cellphone technology is another story. That has to do with best-selling book called Blue Ocean Strategy: How to create uncontested market space and make the competition irrelevant. Friends flicked him copy for his birthday, says Brickley.
“It talks about creating new blue oceans of opportunity rather than trying to compete in the highly competitive bloody red oceans. And when I went down the list of what makes red ocean I had an epiphany – that was us.”
The book’s main message is not to hang around trying to outperform competition in the existing marketing arena but to create new marketing space that renders competition irrelevant. It also offers set of methodologies and tools to create that new “blue ocean”.
“As result of the Blue Ocean Strategy (BOS) exercises we went through, we realised we had been sitting on bit of blue ocean for the past few years. We had identified the potential for our [voicemail] technology in the cellphone market and actually filed patent for it but we thought of ourselves as call centre company and it was just this stepchild technology.
“The BOS sessions prompted us to recognise there was no reason not to go to market today – for us it was expanding what we already had without having to spend millions developing new technology.”
It helped that the company has speeded up its processes for getting new products to market.
“Part of the reason we were confident about getting this to market almost instantly is that about nine months ago we embarked on journey of turning our entire process of developing software from waterfall development environment (all-in release of new technology) to an iterative development cycle (more incremental ongoing releases).
“The benefit of strategically moving to this direction is that we are now able to respond to shifts in the marketplace much faster.”
Blue Ocean Strategy, written by W Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne and published by Harvard Business School Press (2005) is based on 10-year study of 150 strategic moves spanning more than 30 industries from 1880-2000. It covers both strategy formulation and strategy execution and notes that “while innovation has been seen as random/experimental process… BOS offers systematic and reproducible methodologies and processes in pursuit of innovation by both new and existing firms”.
More information from www.blueoceanstrategy.com

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