Yahoo7 executive Caroline Casey on how to win at disruption

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The disruption wave in digital, with its highs and lows, is one I have ridden across the last two decades – from starting my career in technology in the mid nineties working to develop a digital platform for Fairfax Media, to now serving as Director of Product and Audience for one of the nation’s largest media brands, Yahoo7.

And across all roles, digital has been the entity that stands before the front of the herd, leading the way in disrupting media and business relations.

Regardless of whether you’re in the corporate C-suite, own your own business or pursue more “traditional” offline service roles, the rise of the Internet of Things means disruptive technology will touch every part of the world.

It’s important to have the basic understanding to be able to participate in the conversations we’re all having today, that will impact our businesses tomorrow. So how can we disrupt from within?

1. Know your stuff

Every business needs a robust and well informed strategy, one that encompasses what is happening ‘out there’ at a macro and micro level.

I keep abreast of industry happenings through various social channels, including monitoring Twitter streams, podcasts and unique blogs on future gazing topics such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

This helps with understanding global disruptions as well. I am a great believer in looking beyond our borders to garner learnings that will enable growth and hence also set aside funds to follow start-ups via angel.co.

2. Use data wisely

It is vital we identify which data will really move the needle for our business(es) and build that data into key performance indicators, that are measurable against our past successes and competitors. This always needs to indirectly or directly translate into business revenue, otherwise it’s a lost effort.

To make the best use of data, my focus has always been about using it to assess the risk verse reward scenario. In order to profit from disruption we need to be working on technology concepts that are new to market, locally or globally.

Data provides us with almost instantaneous learnings of how products are performing and is key to understanding which technologies are worth the risk.

3. Put your products to the test

It requires a considerable level of braveness or naivety to be disruptive. To be effective, you need to move into a world where your teams are helping cause disruption in your own business.

Essentially you have to disrupt from within and take risks if you want to innovate. As Jeff Bezos from Amazon says, “it’s not an experiment if you know it’s going to work,” so really put your products to the test, because, for me at least, that’s really the key to success.

At Yahoo7 we build all key products within our own product and engineering teams, but in order to ensure we are doing this effectively we product test, measuring how each performs against a control group with measurable success.

4. Know your audience

It would be great if we knew which way the consumer pendulum would sing, but consumer trends can move very fast and others very slow. Mobile took many years to becoming the dominant platform; however smartphones, faster bandwidth and cheaper data helped make that change.

At Yahoo7, we moved to focus on mobile before the industry was publishing key mobile metrics. We know the majority of our audience access our network on mobile devices, so the risks we took in making that our focus area paid off – because we consistently connect with the ‘mobile addicts’ on the world.

5. Don’t be afraid to cull

Everyone talks about agile development, but there is also a need to constantly assess your products’ end of life to determine when they are no longer relevant to market. Though this is a huge burden for digital businesses, it’s important to understand why a product is failing.

I wouldn’t suggest killing a million dollar initiative which has a good opportunity for return on investment and cost millions to build if the reason for failure is pure negligence. That said, it’s very hard to stay competitive if you are carrying baggage – so be ruthless. Know when to invest, when to adapt or when to kill a product.

There is a great opportunity to learn from digital disruption – but the need to continuously evolve and question your business, understand your audience and focus on the things that make a difference is what allows you, as a business and as an individual, to stay ahead of the curve.

Caroline Casey is the Director of Product and Audience at Yahoo7.

This article was originally published on Women’s Agenda

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