I was at an executive summit and during a roundtable, we started talking technology. Somebody said that technology goes too fast. As retailers, we are still thinking about implementing a solution that a new one comes in. Retailers are facing a lot of disruptions in the past 10 years. The market is moving fast and they need to adapt. Some retailers cannot keep up. For example, while most retailers were jumping on the wagon of Ship from Store in 2010, some do not have the functionality yet.
I created a timeline trying to summarize when each technology became mainstream for retailers.
Is the technology evolving too quickly or retailers being too slow?
With the new technologies coming on board, retailers can no longer do everything in the house. This business model is no longer viable unless they have an army of engineers and retailers who can afford it are rare.
By the time they figure out what others have already solved, the market is further away. Why should we reinvent things that are already developed and for which some people spent numerous hours of their life figuring out?
In addition, is this particular technology going to be best for me? I need to be able to identify the technology, try it at a decent price and decide for myself if this is what I need for the long run. I also need to be able to tweak the technology in different ways until I find the right angle working for my business.
The best solution to move fast and allow me to try quickly is to work with people, who know what they are talking about and who made their living of this particular technology. I had been into conversations, where we were wondering if we were going to build a call center or a CRM in house. This is silly! There are so many options there. Make a good selection, go through the evaluation process and work with a vendor. They know what they are doing. They are doing this for years so what makes us think we can do it better than them?
In addition, the scalability and the profitability of the development will never be able to balance. They keep developing functionalities that we can inherit easily. Building it once can be easy but then, how about enhancements and maintenance?
Some years ago, the question buy vs. build was probably valid but today, because of a faster market, I always take the buy route.
A lot of larger corporations, in order to innovate, do not do it themselves; they acquire startups, which figured it out for themselves. They know, that they would never be able to be as nimble and as sharp as startups who live and breath for very specific functionality.
In our fast-moving technology era, the best way to approach the challenge is to set up a test with an existing solution. Assess and then broaden the project or not. Wash, rinse and do it again so that you are always up to date and always on top of customer expectations.