The road to innovation
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The pace of change in the world today makes the future impossible to predict. This is the reality all of us must face, particularly business owners if they want their products or services to remain relevant.

Technology is of course the driving force behind this change. You need only think of concepts and phrases familiar to us now that were unknown 20 years ago, for example, the Internet of Things, Big Data or Business Intelligence. In this new world, businesses need to act fast to ensure they have a shot at longevity. 

As Scott Bishop, Chief Innovation Officer at Z Energy explains, "Technology is influencing all industries and all companies need to evolve to become technology companies in some capacity. If they don't, they will be left behind as their core businesses are eroded by competition and adjacent industries".

A cautionary example is former American behemoth, Kodak. Their hesitancy to embrace the digital camera and its storytelling potential is often put forward as the reason the company went from 20th century pop-culture reference to filing for bankruptcy in 2012.

“Technology is influencing all industries and all companies need to evolve to become technology companies in some capacity.”

So how can businesses evolve for the future? In our techno-centric world, Scott believes no one has a definitive answer to that question. His approach is to develop Z's capability to innovate without knowing exactly how they'll use it, "for some people, that's not an adequate response, but that's a truthful response".

Businesses need to plan but they also need the processes and capabilities in place to be able to react quickly to the possibilities that new technology can offer.

One tip, Scott says, is to make sure you have a number of "ambitious projects that are more speculative" to run alongside your tried and true legacy products or services. 

For inspiration, you can look to overseas giants like Netflix – a company that has consistently evolved and diversified based on new technology. Beginning as a DVD postal service in 1997, Netflix introduced its subscription model two years later offering customers unlimited rentals at a fixed monthly rate. But it was their decision in 2007 to retain the subscription model and expand it to streamed content that changed everything. 

In their first three years of offering streamed content they jumped from 7.5 million subscribers to 20 million. If that wasn't impressive enough, 2013 saw the company branch out into creating original content like 'House of Cards'.

Closer to home, Z Energy is also using new technology to transform the New Zealand transport industry. Their latest project Fastlane blends artificial intelligence, computer vision and mobile app technology.

Fastlane works by comparing the data customers provide in their Z App to data gathered in real-time at participating stations. When you pull into a dedicated Fastlane, onsite cameras will read your vehicle's number plate and check you've registered for the service. A Fastlane Pit Crew member will greet you, pump your fuel, and then you can just drive away as payment takes place automatically.

Z Why Fastlane service station article

Fastlane is currently being trialled at a number of locations around the country, allowing the public to feedback on what's working well and what improvements could be made. 

This is a key part of the development process for Scott. Taking an "experimental and iterative approach" to new technology gives businesses the opportunity to test new ideas quickly and effectively and in the long run, create something that really fits customers' needs.

If you're interested in trying Fastlane, download the Z App from the App Store or Google Play and find a participating station near you.

Got questions?

Drop us a line at yourviews@z.co.nz 

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