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How to Balance Standards & Innovation


By Michail Tsatsanis

Standards compliant equipment is part of the expected product, once the offering moves beyond the innovators into early adopter customers, because compliance assures a number of important benefits:

  • It lowers the technical risk by developing open technical specifications, vetted by technologists from across the industry
  • It accelerates economies of scale earlier in the adoption cycle
  • It encourages multiple sources of a generic product with lower price points


Unfortunately, the standardization process created a significant impediment in the business plans of our startup Company with an innovative product. Time to market and speed of development were our key differentiators against larger incumbents in this fast moving market (the other differentiator being IP protection). The standardization process, however, threatened to reduce our time to market advantage, or worst case, permanently exclude our technical solution from the industry standard specification.


How Strategic Marketing Course Concepts Apply
Standards compliance is part of the Expected Product and therefore has to be factored into the development strategy for a complete and competitive telecommunications solution. Like most technology-driven start-up companies, however, my Company's competitive strategy was to deliver an Augmented Product based on differentiating technology. So that is the quintessential challenge of high tech start up companies: how do you bring technology innovation to market quickly in a standards-driven industry controlled by large incumbents?


We realized that our Company did not command the resources or market clout to be the major driver of all aspects of the product's standardization. Our strategy had to be cognizant of that reality, have appropriate objectives, be adaptive and opportunistic, and circumvent standardization problems rather than frontally assault them. We had to successfully implement a focused and stealth Guerrilla maneuver with respect to customer support for our standards strategy.