Organizational Building Blocks for Product Leadership

Talking about product leadership in the market and understanding all about the organizations that have achieved such leadership can be very valuable and practical knowledge for the aspiring business managers as well as marketing managers of tomorrow. World over we are familiar with the stories of upstart entrepreneurs who made it big in the business. From Mr. Henry Ford to Michael Dell, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates to Richard Bronson, all have made it big for themselves as well as have managed to build formidable Organizations and business empires. Building organizations and establishing and growing product leadership calls not only for entrepreneurship and leadership capabilities but more of planned approach and strategy combined with discipline to stay focused on the path.

Building leadership in a particular business sector also calls for building an organization and business model that is designed to excel and deliver what it needs to establish such leadership in the market. The Organization’s approach to its culture, operations, and processes as well as its approach with regard to employees, quality and training play an important role in making of the Organization that is able to deliver superior performance in the market.

A look at the existing leading companies in the business sector shows up that there are relatively young companies like Microsoft, Google, Apple and others who are growing as an Organization and creating their own rules of business and there are giant Corporate companies and multi nationals that dominate the global markets and have been around for a long time. The younger and newer Organizations have a lot of common factors that have become the drivers of their business and operations. In fact the older Organizations’ have re-organized their business models and operational processes using technology and systems as drivers. The new companies too have adopted the same methods and rely heavily on information technology as the backbone of their operations.

Though information technology has developed quite recently in the last few decades, it has managed to change the rules of the game in every sphere of life. Organizations used to rely on human resources to plan, direct, control as well as do all of the operations. However information technology has not only taken away the manual tasks and automated them, but the latest systems are designed to drive all of the functions, processes and operations of an Organization, integrating, managing and controlling all processes. Today the processes of all the Organizations are driven by systems and not by people.

We have now seen that the hugely successful organizations have smart management that are able to design and plan for operational excellence and are able to leverage using systems and IT to drive their operations. Such system driven operations takes away dependence on people leading to reduction in errors, standardization of processes, reduction of time as well as cost of operations while at the same time the volume of transactions handled are increased. This turn adds to the bottom-line and helps the Organization. Technology is also used by these Organizations for building their business intelligence and to drive customer service.

Take the case of AT&T Universal Credit Card Service Company that entered the credit card market at a time when the market was mature and was dominated by retail banks who knew the business well. UCS went on to become the second largest credit card company in the US within two years and broke even within 27 months of its operations, despite offering Lifetime free credit cards and rate of interest and other charges lesser than the competitors. The success came through a well planned strategy to use IT to drive their operations, offer superior customer service and hassle free transactions enabled by its IT network and connectivity and to aim for operational excellence in order to earn profits from eliminating errors and wastage in operations.

The smart usage of IT systems really helped UCS to gain competitive edge over the rest of the competitors who were operating with legacy systems and manual processes. It is very interesting to note how the Organization used IT systems to its advantage and built its business intelligence and customer database. The Organization ensured that it built up the database of all the customers in the whole country and when anyone called up, the system could immediately provide the details of the caller and assist the operator in servicing the customer. Before the company started the business, they had worked on the customer credit rating and were able to approve credit cards immediately on receiving the application and reach the card to the customer’s home within a week, while competition took over several weeks to do the checks, process the applications and courier the cards.

Combined with systems and technology, the company had imbibed quality as the key driver to achieving operational excellence that would automatically result in delivering superior service to the customers. Quality systems and processes ensured that the customer service staff answered all the calls within three rings, thus setting standards in customer service. With custom designed systems, most of the routine functions and tasks have been automated leaving the customer service executive free to engage with the customer and ensure speedy and error free service.

The credit card operations backed with sophisticated call management system, the huge network and the operationally excellent processes, the company has managed to build a huge store of customer data where in it knows each and every customer, his past relationship and transactions and is able to anticipate his needs, engage with the customer to provide value addition and build loyalty. Using the same system and database, the company is able to offer increased number of services and increase its engagement with the customers. Clearly, Information technology has been one of the backbones that have been intelligently used by all of the Organizations to propel them to leadership in their market.


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