The continued economic viability of software development in India, whether by independent software vendors (ISVs) or “captive” business units, depends less on pure labor arbitrage and more on delivering time-to-market advantage for clients. The pressure of meeting business expectations demands that software firms harness creative capability wherever they can find it. The increased focus on Business Technology innovation and customer experience over mere cost savings presents both a threat and an opportunity to software configuration and development business units (BUs) in India.This is the key finding from my just-published report.
Forrester developed its software innovation assessment workbook to assess software innovation capability of firms. We provided this tool to members of NASSCOM (the industry association for the IT BPO sector in India), comprising both ISVs and captive development BUs in India, and surveyed them to assess the most important process, organizational, cultural, geographical, and staffing practices that promote software innovation. We also interviewed a dozen selected respondents in greater depth to better understand how innovation capability contributes to business success in India. We found evidence of widespread adoption of the practices correlated with software innovation capability, helping to drive a rapidly changing role for Indian business in the global software supply chain.
Innovators in India that were engaged in software development and configuration received high scores for many of the practices that drive effective innovation. They demonstrated strength in:
Listening to the voice of the customer
Making the development process more iterative and responsive
Organizations in growth markets across Asia have not traditionally been heavy consumers of outsourcing services. Having lots of on-premises hardware still carries some prestige for local CIOs, particularly in China and India. The availability of relatively inexpensive IT staff in local markets has also helped them deliver acceptable service levels to the business. Until now, that is. The combination of quickly rising IT salaries, increased competition from regional and even global expansion, and growing demands among business stakeholders to more effectively engage customers has put pressure on CIOs to increase the performance of their organizations.
More and more CIOs I speak with are struggling with how best to effectively transform their IT capabilities and meet fast-changing business requirements. In particular, whether to embark on this transformation journey alone or leverage outsourcing partners. In a recent report, I profiled organizations in Asia that are leveraging external service providers to accelerate their IT maturation. One example is a manufacturer with 10,000 employees and operations across Asia that outsourced its entire IT infrastructure environment to improve and homogenize service levels. Another is a large Indian bank that outsourced its entire IT department to a service provider and improved its maturity level from a 3 (on a scale from 1 to 10) to a 6 in less than a year.
If you read my blog regularly, it should come as no surprise that I am an ardent fan of using mobile devices — whether mobile phones or tablets — for market research purposes. I have discussed how consumers are already forcing our hand into the world of mobile and that market insights professionals are not conducting mobile market research but instead are conducting market research in a mobile world.
Given this, I was both delighted and dismayed when attending this year’s ARF Re:think 2013 conference. Why was I delighted? There was a marked increase in the number of talks that focused on the role mobile plays — whether as a research technique or how it plays a significant role in consumers’ lives. Of just the talks I attended, which were a lot, almost 60% of them discussed the role of mobile. And a lot of these “mobile” talks were in the main track session. Talking with colleagues who attended last year, it’s clear that mobile has definitely moved front of mind compared with ARF Re:think 2012.
But I was dismayed that it was still just talk, talk, talk. At the conference, I was surrounded by tablets and smartphones, and people were using them all the time. And while we’re living this mobile life, we’re listening to speeches telling us how we need to start thinking about the role of mobile. Dare I say that we need to do a bit more than just thinking at this point in the game? We clearly have to get our act together soon.
If you’ve turned on reality television lately (and I’m sorry if you have), you have seen a lot of overconfident folks who think highly of their ability to cook, sing, model, dance -- whatever -- when in actual fact most of them stink. The spectacle of these shows comes from watching to see if these people ever accept the painful gap between their perceived and actual abilities.
From data we have just published today in a new Forrester report, Assess Your Digital Disruption Readiness Now (client access required), it turns out that digital disruption is like reality TV in at least this one way: There is a significant, even painful, gap between how ready some executives think they are to engage in digital disruption and the actual readiness of the enterprise.
This disparity rears its ugly head at a crucial time. As Forrester principal analyst James McQuivey has recently written in his book Digital Disruption, digital disruption is about to completely change how companies do business. Digital tools and digital platforms are driving the cost of innovation down to nearly zero, causing at least 10 times as many innovators to rush into your market while operating at one-tenth the cost that you do. Multiply that together and you face 100 times the innovation power you did just a few years ago under old-fashioned disruption (see figure).
I am just back from the whirlwind that is Nasscom India Leadership Forum 2013 in Mumbai, India. The Nasscom event is the premier event for the Indian IT services marketplace. Besides meeting great people, eating too much wonderful Indian food, and seeing action star and local legend AmitabhBachchan in-person, the event provides a chance to check the pulse of the most important geographic hub for the IT services marketplace.
Data from the Forrsights Budgets and Priorities Tracker Survey, Q4 2012 highlights the increasing gap between CIOs and business decision-makers (BDMs) in India — a gap that originates in misaligned perspectives. The rapid rise of social media, cloud computing, and mobility in India has started to significantly affect how organizations do business in the country. Business leaders’ use of consumer technology has changed their expectations of how enterprise IT should be harnessed. They increasingly seek to use technology in innovative ways in order to gain a competitive edge and drive business growth. However, most CIOs are still caught in the old world of focusing exclusively on IT budgets and project delivery performance issues:
I recently spoke with a few CIOs in India to explore their views on the reasons behind this misalignment. When I shared data from the chart above and asked their opinions on the insights, some interesting findings that came out:
There are many “heads of IT” and few “business technology (BT) CIOs” in India. One CIO from a large auto manufacturing firm mentioned that a majority of CIOs in India are actually “IT heads” who think and act mainly from an IT perspective. Even worse, their thinking is generally very hardware-centric. This CIO’s opinion is in sync with my recent report highlighting the fact that Indian CIOs are at risk of losing business credibility (and eventually their jobs) if they do not improve their understanding of BT.
I’ve spent the past two days at Finovate Europe in London, which has rapidly established itself as the leading European retail financial technology event of the year. This year’s event was bigger than last year’s, with 64 exhibitors spread over the two days.
Here are my impressions from the two days:
Innovation is hard and usually incremental. Our expectations are so high. It’s easy to sit in the audience and think ‘I’ve seen something like that before’. It’s a lot harder to develop truly new ideas, let alone build them and market them. Innovation is necessarily incremental, moving into the adjacent possible opportunity as my colleague James McQuivey puts it (see him explain it on video here). True invention is extremely rare. As James puts it in his new book, “The most powerful ideas consciously draw from and incorporate elements that were being developed by others along the way, ultimately generating the best outcome in the shortest time at the most efficient cost.” That’s what makes events like Finovate so useful.
Really, it is not. I was heartened to see that it doesn’t even make the oxymoron list, which does however include “government worker,” “congressional ethics,” and the rather hackneyed “military intelligence.” In fact, governments are innovating all over the place, particularly with the help of new technologies and a growing constituency of civic-minded developers.
One of my colleagues here at Forrester asked me today if I was planning to write a Playbook on smart cities. While we don’t have a government playbook currently in the works, we have a number of reports that share market trends and industry best practices. So I thought I’d pull together a list.
Here are a few examples of Forrester reports that illustrate government innovation. My series on smart cities includes:
Yesterday the Kenyan president broke ground on a new smart city development outside of Nairobi. The site of the new Konza Techno City is located in Eastern Kenya, 60 km from Nairobi on the Nairobi-Mombasa Road. It is 50 km from Jomo Kenyatta International airport and 500km from Mombasa and its ports. The greenfield site, purchased by the Ministry of Information and Communication and to be managed by the Konza Technopolis Development Authority, extends over 5,000 acres.
The primary goal of the new city is to develop the Kenyan Business Process Outsourcing and Information Technology Enabled Services (BPO/ITES) industry – with estimated creation of 200,000 new jobs across the broad technology and related sectors over a 20-year period. But the primary objective is to create at least 82,000 jobs in the BPO sector as this is a key area for Kenya's Vision 2030. The new city will also house a university, recreation and entertainment venues, a film and media center, a financial district, as well as residential neighborhoods and the supporting infrastructure.
Apple ignited the smartphone market with the innovative, super-desirable iPhone. But is the company’s innovation engine starting to sputter? That’s the question I pose to Forrester mobile analysts Jeffrey Hammond and Michael Facemire in this episode of TechnoPolitics. Of course, the answer isn’t so simple. Apple’s ultimate challenge is not about tit-for-tat feature innovation. Jeffrey Hammond says that this is a battle between two fundamentally different innovation models: directed innovation and open innovation. Apple is the high church of directed innovation, whereas Google’s approach is to let a thousand flowers bloom. Both mobile platforms have been enormously successful. But Michael Facemire thinks that conditions are ripe for the open innovation model to dominate. Jeffrey and Michael have amazing insights that you can only get at TechnoPolitics.