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Blockbustering in a Netflix World: Why Businesses Cannot Afford to Leave App Technology Out of the Workplace

Apps have changed the way we interact, shop, run errands and generally go about our days and nights – so much so, we likely pay no mind to it. But consider how transactions have been eased in:

  • grocery stores, with self-checkout lanes
  • pharmacies, through online prescription refills
  • theaters and concerts, by bypassing ticket lines

In each case, we are placed in direct contact with a database we previously accessed indirectly.

However, one place in our lives has yet to catch up with going all-in on app usage: the workplace. Nationwide research proves tasks and processes employees could complete themselves digitally remain in the hands of the employer – in antiquated and needlessly manual form.

Why employers should embrace apps

Now that employers face a workforce with more millennials than members of any other generation, they also encounter personnel that not only highly values having such technology in their jobs, but expects it.

Today’s young employees have never known a world that was not online. To them, the digital revolution already has happened. According to the Pew Research Center, mobile phone usage stands at 100% among ages 18-29, and 94% of that is on smartphones.

In other words, companies that have yet to embrace this change – or are waiting for it to happen organically – risk being left behind. The time to act is now.

Tech is the new perk

While fear is a natural tendency in business, the stakes are too high for it to remain a barrier to change. Today’s app-reliant consumers are your employees. They have absorbed and woven digital into their everyday lives.

And guess what? Global research by Adobe found that for 81% of employees, technology is the most important factor for an ideal workspace. (Sorry, nap pods and free sodas!)

Today’s world moves so rapidly, no time is left for second-guessing. Yesteryear moved a little slower, but not so fast that executives could not see change approaching on the horizon … and they paid the price for it. As did their shareholders, employees and so on.

Related: Every Second Counts … and Costs: Why Everyone Should Use HR Tech

A Blockbuster failure

For a now-famous case in which management ignored and/or denied the inevitable, let’s go to the movies.

In fact, let’s make it a Blockbuster night! Remember Blockbuster Video? Throughout the ’90s, its blue-and-gold brand seemed inescapable, because in 1989, it had opened a new rental store every 17 hours.

But in 2000, Blockbuster hosted a meeting with a small, struggling company proposing a partnership in which the new organization would run the then-mighty Blockbuster’s online operations. The Blockbuster execs “just about laughed us out of the office,” said Barry McCarthy, the man who eventually became the little company’s CFO.

Oh, and that little company had a weird, oddly spelled name: Netflix.

It took four years from that meeting for Blockbuster’s then-CEO John Antioco to change his mind, but it was too late. Recalled McCarthy, “over time, as we grew our market, his thinking evolved, but initially they ignored us and that was much to our advantage.”

As Forbes wrote, Antioco “sensed that Netflix had become a significant threat and sought to change his firm’s policies. … [H]e failed to realize how quickly a niche idea could snowball into a viral cascade. … The irony is that Blockbuster failed because its leadership had built a well-oiled operational machine. It was a very tight network that could execute with extreme efficiency, but poorly suited to let in new information.”

Today, Netflix’s market value is approximately $150 billion. Blockbuster Video has one location. One.

To borrow an old Blockbuster tagline, wow, what a difference.

How to avoid being left behind

Blockbuster Video learned a lesson, but in arguably the worst possible way. Its executives’ failure to be agile amid a tech wave stands as a cautionary tale.

To read more about how digital initiatives have revolutionized our lives – and how businesses that have yet to catch up can do so – download our new, free white paper, Is Your Business App-rehensive? How to Lead a Digital Transformation in Your Workplace.