Consequences of over-serving average customers

Another colleague of mine was kind enough to share with me an article from her required course reading during leadership training, “Skate to Where the Money Will Be.” One of the points the authors make that got my attention was the following statement: “Product performance almost always improves beyond the needs of the general consumer, as companies stretch to meet the needs of the most demanding (and most profitable) customers.” The article goes on to talk about the opportunity that an overserved market presents to those with agile, niche and solutions-oriented product portfolios. It emphasizes the value of modularity and the standardization process that often results from the coalescing of modular interfaces. It also warns about a changing tide that ebbs away from integration and flows toward componentization (i.e. dis-integration). Promote integration after this tide change only to your competitive disadvantage in terms of speed, flexibility and price.

This was an especially timely read for me as the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) industry is pursuing SOA and standards activities like iECM and JSR-170. To be clear, interoperability and integration are not the same thing, but I still see wisdom in article written four years ago for HBR.