Transformation is the freedom to think big

By Lauren Timmer-Somer, head of communication and interconnectivity technology services and head of marketing and brand communications at Ricoh SA.
Disruptive economies demand innovation. If your processes are five years or older then you definitely need to re-evaluate your position.
But innovation goes beyond optimising processes. It goes beyond throwing digital technologies at manual, paper-based systems and badging it innovation. It requires processes, the ways of working, be re-examined and reconstituted to focus on the needs of the modern business and the modern customer to provide better service.
Simply automating what exists does little beyond speeding up what could, at best, be an out-dated service or, at worst, a dismal system intent on frustrating customers. Automation without process improvement also has a nasty habit of highlighting or creating bottlenecks that frustrate revenues, profits, and customers. You must have data if you’re to beat bottlenecks. The winning formula for real innovation is getting data out of the productivity environment, deal with the bottlenecks, then automate revamped or redesigned processes.
Innovative processes are also helping companies deal with a raft of regulation now endemic to the South African business environment. They help to centralise control by restoring power to decision makers to speedily mitigate business risks introduced by legislation.
Society’s people, consumers and customers, also pose a risk to companies in how they use technology. Rapid adoption of smartphone and other digital technologies, with globalisation, impresses the need for companies to adapt to peoples’ changing behaviour. Failure to adapt, failure to maintain the flexibility to deal with quickly changing environments and behaviours, marginalises companies from their customers to the point of irrelevance and eventual extinction. Marketers face this crisis even today: they must be relevant in the digital age, engaging audiences by various channels while providing tangible and measurable returns (ROI) to their business principals, causing them to learn a raft of new skills and technologies or endure obsolescence. Legal practitioners too face modernisation challenges since the legal system is adapting to both deal with and use electronic and digital documentation and other such tools.
But, while innovation must transcend simple replacement of paper-based manual by automated digital, strategy is key. Without the strategy or vision driving all personnel, from the summit to the foundation, toward a common purpose any and all budgets are wasted money and time. Both Nokia and Yahoo! were innovative in their time and both are largely irrelevant today as a result of their poor strategies. Companies require commitment alongside coherent policies and company behaviours to achieve competitive goals. These make it simpler to define budgets, allocate resources, and kick-start execution to achieve the desired end state while identifying what can be traded off or eliminated from immediate objectives if needs be.
Fewer people today mistakenly believe that big brands are immune to disruption. Size offers no shelter from the forces of disruption. Blockbuster, Kodak, RIM’s BlackBerry, Barnes & Noble, and even Microsoft fight to remain relevant. HP is in dire straits.
Customer centricity and customer co-creation are absolutely crucial in this disruptive world. Companies either join forces with their customers to innovate brighter futures for both or face lonely deaths. And companies must supply specialists, experts in their fields, combined with customers’ needs and requirements. That prerequisite will continue to accumulate momentum so companies must also nurture future specialists from new generations entering the workforce today because they’re the brains who will lead innovation in subsequent decades.
Being a big brand in a disruptive economy also offers no immunity from disruption. In fact, quite the contrary can be true. Blockbuster and Kodak, BlackBerry’s RIM, Barnes & Noble, even Microsoft is fighting to remain relevant in a disrupted global economy although apparently faring better than HP as it endures yet another restructure.
One of the lessons that’s emerged from these big name examples is that customer centricity and customer co-creation are important. You have to work together with your customers, combine your brains, or face a lonely death. Today’s market forces demand specialists combine their skills to innovate. That may be today’s demand but don’t expect it to disappear tomorrow. That’s why it’s so important that you’ve already been nurturing future generations into your workforce – they’re the brains who’ll lead your business to prosperity tomorrow and the day after.

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About Us

Ricoh is a global technology company specialising in office imaging equipment, production print solutions, document management systems and IT services. Headquartered in Tokyo, Ricoh Group operates in about 200 countries and regions. In the financial year ending March 2014, Ricoh Group had worldwide sales of 2,236 billion yen (approximately 21.7 billion USD).

The majority of the company’s revenue comes from products, solutions and services that improve the interaction between people and information. Ricoh also produces award-winning digital cameras and specialized industrial products. It is known for the quality of its technology, the exceptional standard of its customer service and sustainability initiatives.

Under its corporate tagline, imagine. change. Ricoh helps companies transform the way they work and harness the collective imagination of their employees.

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011 723 5000
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Jacques van Wyk, Chief Operating Officer

Lauren Timmer-Somer, Head of Marketing and Technology Services

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