What is “frictionless” anyway ?

Is your business strategy about to burn down ?

After my last post I had a few people ask why I had chosen the term “frictionless” to describe something that has always existed. To a certain degree I’m just following other people’s lead and using their terminology (must be the sales part of my DNA creeping into my writing), but it also indicates that although the problems have always existed, the solutions available are indeed new.

The idea behind the “frictionless” term, at least to me is to indicate that some specific element of enterprise technology or business in general is moving efficiently, with no interruptions or undue hindrance towards the end state objective. Its not utopia, but it is a much better way to approach business and technology strategy in 2016.

Using a consumer technology as an example — my Netflix subscription is a fixed fee on autopay, and 99.99% of the time when I turn on my TV Netflix just plain works. They did this as a much smaller company than their competition.

We know who won don’t we ? (image via plaidklaus.com)

Netflix is a frictionless experience for most, and when you compare it to the experience of Blockbuster — you had to drive to the store, park, manually wade through rows upon rows of movies to find one that was both something I wanted and was in-stock (remember the out of stock new release days ?), the price depended on how old the movies you rented were, how long you kept them etc. But you werent done there, you had to drive home, come back to return the movies at some point — and hope there were no late fees. Blockbuster’s entire business model was full of friction.

Although technology plays a critical part in most disruption taking place in business and the enterprise world right now, its not the only thing. Netflix disrupted Blockbuster (and put them out of business) because they had a better business strategy that incorporated and frequently changed because of technology. From the outset Netflix was out to remove hurdles (friction) from the consumers experience, first by charging a smaller subscription fee, mailing DVD’s out (you never leave home), then streaming. It was a business strategy focused on a frictionless experience.

But this story isnt about Netflix. Its about you and your business. When you go into work tomorrow, no matter where you work or what your title is, I challenge you to start cataloging all of the little inefficiencies (eg friction) that make your job or your customers (internal or external) experience painful, slow or frustrating.

Once you start identifying the problems you can start thinking about ways to make things run smoother. Are your POS systems out of date with no/poor inventory integration ? Does your logistics division constantly struggle to manage deliveries and shipping deadlines ? Is your IT department incapable of keeping email & chat online ? Is the espresso machine in the office bad enough to make you walk to the nearest Starbucks every day ? (ok, that last one is a pet peeve)

These may not be your area’s of responsibility, but often in life and in business the person with a plan and a willingness to drive is the one who ends up making the biggest difference, not the person with the fancy title.

Continue reading about frictionless in another of my posts here