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Digital Transformation: Cheat Code to Overcome the Innovator s Dilemma

Roland Alston, Appian
July 6, 2017

In his book "The Innovator's Dilemma," innovation expert and Harvard professor Clayton M. Christensen says that successful brands get disrupted because they get stuck in the very business models that made them successful in the first place.

The thing is, if you've innovated your way to the top of the expectation curve, standing pat with an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" strategy may seem like the right thing to do.

But with the rising tide of digital disruption it's often the wrong thing to do. This is what Christensen calls the Innovator's Dilemma.

The good news? Becoming a prisoner of your own innovation isn't inevitable.

Media giant cracks innovation paradox

A global Media company cracked the innovator's paradox, with alow-code-powered process for matching talent to content.

Behind-the-scenes, this media giant harnessed low-code application development to optimize its business processes for matching celebrity talent with network content.

Before low code, this matchmaking process was inconsistent. Some groups relied on email to manage and track key performance metrics. Others depended on spreadsheets. The inconsistencies created workflow issues and put sales and advertising revenue at risk.

By switching to alow-code platform, the company was able to quickly build and deploy apps while standardizing their processes. The platform's dynamic case management capability provided more visibility into key business metrics. This gave staffers a unified view of back-end data, which minimized the risk of over-committing talent to multiple advertisers.

It's also worth noting that while their competitors were focused on finding the next Honey Boo Boo, this media company developed innovative, family-friendly content focused on home, food, and travel categories for television, the internet, and emerging media platforms instead.

The counterintuitive approach was a huge success, creating a high-value viewer base that today includes more than 190 million consumers in over 85 countries.

Best of all? The company was able to close the books with solid gains in advertising and distribution revenue in 2016, including a 17% jump in worldwide advertising revenue.

Student journey gets appified

The DIY benefits of low-code application development means you can be as innovative as you can imagine...even when you are running overly complicated, paper-based systems that can't easily be updated with traditional software.

Case in point? The University of South Florida (USF).


USF is one of the largest universities in the country. Students and faculty there needed modern, digital tools to manage the student journey, optimize on-time graduation rates, and sustain student/staff relationships over the course of a student's' time on campus.

School administrators needed complete functionality. And, students wanted mobile apps that were simple to download and easy to use to change a major, switch advisers, make an appointment, or whatever! In the past, such routine transactions were paper-based and manually managed.

Students would pick up a blank check-sheet in one office, go somewhere else to set up a meeting with their adviser, come back for that meeting to fill out the check-sheet, print it, sign it, make multiple copies, and finally deliver them to different offices on campus.

Student-adviser interactions were handled via email. Ditto for processing student requests to change advisers. Invariably, though, forms would get lost. Information would become outdated, which could have put USF's regulatory compliance at risk.

Low-code speeds delivery of killer mobile app

These disconnected processes were an efficiency killer. Fortunately, the CIO at USF's College of Public Health decided to unify all of the moving parts with a mobile app built on the Appian Low-Code Platform, to provide real-time communication.

For USF officials, going mobile eliminated the hassle of wrangling numerous emails and paper forms. It also allowed students and advisers to manage many aspects of their campus experience from whatever...which of course includes a mobile device or desktop computer!

Initially, school officials hoped to deploy just part of their digital transformation solution within three months. With alow-code approach, the entire solution was built and deployed in just three weeks.

Hmmm, perhaps Christensen is right. When we focus only on innovation that made us market leaders in the first place, we get stuck.

Better to sustain success with digital transformation than to get stumped by the Innovator's Dilemma. Don'tcha think?


Roland Alston

Empower, build, launch and change faster than ever before with Appian's low-code application platform.