Last summer, I wrote about the difference between invisible and visible innovation—that is, how visible innovation is iteration-driven and built around features, and invisible innovation is inspired by redefining processes and experiences. Both approaches have value, of course, especially given today’s fast-paced marketplace. But what happens when they collide?
I’m in a unique position to answer that question because at HP, we’ve done it. We’ve redesigned our Partner First Portal beginning with the A3 Managed Print Services—and, in the process, reinvented the partner user experience. We changed the partner user experience, by moving away from what HP/Vendors are trying to push, to what partners are looking for. We call this approach “From Learn to Earn.”
Enhancing the Old Only Works for So Long. What’s Next? Reinvention
Most technology products have distinct lifecycles (see Figure 1), and that includes business staples like websites and portals. First, the technology will emerge and grow, sometimes rapidly. Then, it will reach maturity before it begins its inevitable decline—and the cycle begins for the next new product or tool. Reaching the declining stage does not mean technologies were flawed in the first place. Rather, it simply means the market demands something new.
As the capabilities of technologies grow to meet rising consumer expectations and begin to curve down from their maturity peak, there are three choices: Polish, enhance, or reinvent. Troubleshoot and remarket the present, or focus on utility, and brainstorm for the future. This distinction separates companies that will thrive and those that could fizzle away.
To illustrate this point, Ahmad Takatkah provided a stellar example in a column on VCpreneur when he broke down the technology lifecycle as it relates to email. For an email provider, polishing services could simply include bolstering productivity or security tools. Enhancing email could take the form of unbundling, or “taking parts of why we’re using email and mastering them.” This is the land of collaboration tech, both internal and external. Then, the reinventing—some startups are completely taking on email from an experience perspective, adding hashtags, social activities, chat features, and more. For more context, Gal’s Insights provided another straightforward example of music technology, as illustrated in Figure 2.
Figure 2. Source: Gal’s Insights
At HP, we’ve taken the concept of a partner portal and settled into the last of the three options—reinvention. Our new plan allows partners the chance to cover all their bases—We want our journey for partner and HP sales representatives, to be seamless, from Learn to Earn—in one convenient, practically-designed web service. Let’s take a closer look.
Going Beyond SKU-Level
The Partner First Portal provides instant access to tools and resources for all of its over 850,000 users across 213 countries while also offering 24/7 access to localized support. We’ve always known that personalization, customization, and speed matter, but we’ve funneled those as even bigger priorities into our A3 multifunction printer portfolio, a dedicated section within the partner portal that houses our managed print services.
When designing the managed print services section, we broke away from the norm. Instead of breaking down the structure by individual product categories or even getting as granular as SKU levels, we configured the tiles to be intuitive to our partners’ needs. For example, if they do want those SKU-level data sheets (which they need, just not front and center), those are available under “learn,” along with many other helpful resources including detailed specs.
There’s much more to explore besides “Learn:” There’s “Plan,” “Generate Demand,” “Transact,” “Earn,” and “Support.” Those clickable tile titles aren’t just buzzwords—they’re guideposts for our site users. Under them, we provide context that helps them sell into competitive environments. We offer marketing and sales development tools that are so novel that they made the news. In addition, we give partners access to customizable presentations, a plethora of support options, and so much more.
Only the Beginning
The features of the A3 portal are indeed robust—in fact, you can learn all about them in-depth by watching this video—but that’s not why I’m writing this.
Here at HP, we know that at some point, businesses need to shift the paradigm as technologies grow. When it comes to polishing versus reinventing, we side with the latter and are committed to improving their experience via what CRN called our “breakthrough mobile portal and social media tools.” To get there, we built with an outside-in mentality, approaching ideas with partners in mind instead of with HP in mind. We ditched the vendor view and traditional portal organization that served us well but which could have offered more to our users, opting instead for a navigation structure based on partner needs.
Many of our partners want to better engage with consumers along their digital journeys, and it’s our job to help them get there. Their needs are the catalysts to our reinvention—a reinvention which, by the way, has started with A3 but will by no means end there. We’re committed to helping our partners move from learn to earn at every touchpoint with our company.
In short, it’s only the beginning.
What are your thoughts? Where do you side in the conversation of iteration v. innovation? Do you spend too much time polishing old products and services, or is your company in the business of reimagining or reinventing ways to bring more possibilities into the lives of your customers? Tell me in the comments.
A version of this post was first published on LinkedIn.