The New York Times, in a March 22 article, focused on the challenges for Kodak, the onetime king of photography, as it attempts to redefine itself in a fast-changing business environment.
Kodak’s researchers actually invented digital photography in the ’90s, but the company remained focused on the revenue generated from traditional photography. Even before cameras became an essential part of the smartphone, sales for traditional film were plummeting.
“For Kodak, the advent of digital photography was ruinous. Today it has $2 billion in annual sales, compared with $19 billion in 1990 when consumer film was king. It now has 8,000 employees worldwide; it had 145,000 at its peak,” the Times article points out.
The point here is to not single out Kodak for any past decisions or performance. The list of large 20th Century companies that could not adapt to a changing technological (or consumer) landscape is endless.
Future in Legacy Technologies
A key point in the article is how Kodak’s future success, in fact, lies in its legacy technologies. Its scientists and engineers are studying nanoparticle wonder inks, cheap sensors that can be embedded in packaging, and touch screens for smartphones. The company hopes to “dig deep into a legacy of innovation in the photography business and see if its remaining talent in optics and chemistry can be turned into new money in other industries,” according to the article.
“I’m mining the history of this company for its underlying technologies,” Kodak’s CEO told the Times.
One can only imagine where Kodak – and numerous other well-known businesses — would now stand if 20th Century businesses had the ability to analyze data the way businesses can today. They might have had an opportunity to leverage those golden nuggets of opportunity otherwise missed in their technology or product lines.
Business-intelligence platforms now offer end-users and senior executives the ability to collect and analyze data and create reports, dashboards and visualizations in real time.
A workforce informed by data might have taken legacy technology companies on a different path. If you are an Independent Software Vendor or Solutions Provider, does your application give end-users a robust BI solution that gives their business a competitive edge?
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