What’s happening this week at the intersection of management and technology.
A lesson from the fintech disruption: Digitalization has spawned a host of new fintech companies in the once-monolithic financial services market. Like piranha, a fintech or two didn’t much concern the too-big-to-fail set. But, as a new article in strategy+business reports, the global funding for fintech startups more than doubled from 2014 to 2015, to US$11.2 billion. The article’s authors, a trio of PwC fintech consultants, remind us that when piranha start to school, things can start to get dicey for big, lumbering beasts.
While their advice is aimed at bankers, leaders of established companies in any industry that is experiencing digital disruption (is there an industry that isn’t?) might want to consider it. First, the authors warn of the dangers of a wait-and-see strategy, the difficulties of integration in an M&A-driven strategy, and the challenges inherent in trying to catch up with — and compete head-to-head against — agile, digitally savvy competitors. Then, they offer an intriguing alternative (echoed here): “Reorient your firm as the dynamic center of a fintech ecosystem.”
How do big banks do that? “This approach involves looking outward: assessing third-party technology providers based on what they offer and how well you might partner with them, choosing software and apps that fit your financial institution’s business criteria, and interfacing with the providers to quickly offer their solutions as part of a coherent integrated product,” the authors explain. “Focus on what your own company does best — for instance, identifying investment themes, assessing credit exposure, managing counterparty risk, or executing and settling financial transactions. And then tap into the fintech pool, by establishing partnerships, to gain access to innovation that can support or expand your organization’s core market.”
The lesson for incumbents in any industry that’s attracting digital piranha: If you can’t beat ‘em, partner with ‘em.
Faster, more effective product development with microfactories: Add microfactories to the makerspaces and fab labs that will help launch the next Industrial Revolution. As the name implies, microfactories are small facilities that use advanced manufacturing techniques and rapid prototyping tools to quickly move new product ideas from concept to production runs in the thousands of units.
These facilities allow manufacturers to test new products in the marketplace before making the large investments needed to achieve economies of scale. “Manufacturers should run through tons of potentially good ideas and then test them out to see if people actually want what they’re making before going full scale,” explain Andrew O’Keefe and Jason Dorrieron in an article on Singularity Hub.
The article profiles Local Motors, an operator of microfactories. The company is a partner, along with General Electric, University of Louisville, and other investors, in First Build, a microfactory focused on appliance design. It also runs several microfactories focused on vehicle innovation. Using them, Local Motors developed a 3D-printed car, which it plans to begin selling this year.
“Our microfactory is capable of doing things five times faster and with 100 times less capital than everything else in the industry doing these kinds of complex cyber-mechanical devices,” CEO Jay Rogers told O’Keefe and Dorrieron. Sounds like a value proposition that would appeal to any manufacturer.
Supply chain digitization for competitive advantage: In the first study of the progress in supply chain digitization, 48% of 337 executives from some of the largest manufacturing and retail companies in the Europe and North America reported that phone, fax, and email are still the principal means of communication with their supply chain partners. Fax?
The study, which was conducted by Capgemini and GT Nexus, found that almost all the execs believe that they can capture transformational gains by adopting supply chain visibility platforms and tools, big data analytics, simulation tools, and cloud computing. But they don’t expect to have these technologies in place anytime soon.
Right now, only 15% of respondents said that the majority of data from the extended supply chain is accessible within their companies. Only 23% said that the majority of data from the extended supply chain is analyzed and used for decision making. Only 6% said that a majority of their supply chain software is cloud-based.
The executives aren’t sitting on their hands — 70% say they already have digital supply chain initiatives underway. But with supply chain digitization years away from becoming commonplace, it seems likely that early movers could gain significant competitive advantage in terms of agility, reductions in cost and risk, and transparency.