What typically happens when one approaches 40? Major mid-life crisis? Life transformation? Yeah, something like that...
Well, apparently tech vendors are no different. Back in 2010 with 40 rapidly approaching, SAP undertook a broad new innovation strategy with an executive mandate for intellectual renewal. The goal was to transform the company through innovation – innovation that would reach billions of new users and humanize the brand through consumer app development. What?! SAP, a consumer app company. Yes, observing market trends of consumerization and the rise of “shadow IT” (technology purchases outside of the IT department), SAP recognized the need to expand its audience and improve its user experience.
They began with three questions:
How can we create applications that can potentially reach millions of users?
How can we design, build, and release these apps in 90 days?
How can we scale this to successfully deliver large volumes of these apps?
I attended Google’s annual atmosphere road show recently, an event aimed at presenting solutions for business customers. The main points I took away were:
Google’s “mosaic” approach to portfolio development offers tremendous potential. Google has comprehensive offerings covering communications and collaboration solutions (Gmail, Google Plus), contextualized services (Maps, Compute Engine), application development (App Engine), discovery and archiving (Search, Vault), and access tools to information and entertainment (Nexus range, Chromebook/Chromebox).
Google’s approach to innovation sets an industry benchmark. Google is going for 10x innovation, rather than the typical industry approach of pursuing 10% incremental improvements. Compared with its peers, this “moonshot” approach is unorthodox. However, moonshot innovation constitutes a cornerstone of Google’s competitive advantage. It requires Google’s team to think outside established norms. One part of its innovation drive encourages staff to spend 20% of their work time outside their day-to-day tasks. Google is a rare species of company in that it does not see failure if experiments don’t work out. Google cuts the losses, looks at the lessons learned — and employees move on to new projects.
As businesses work to differentiate their products or services, grow the bottom line, and expand globally, they need to think seriously about the important role that their employees play in helping the business achieve successful outcomes. Businesses must invest in processes and technology to recruit and onboard the best people, address performance gaps with key learning activities, provide career development plans, and align pay with performance. Activities like human resource management (HRM) deployment in the cloud and the use of mobile and social technologies for HRM processes catapult HR to the cutting edge of innovation.
Ten days ago, three of us traveled to Japan for a Fujitsu analyst day held in conjunction with the firm’s huge customer event – the Fujitsu Forum. The analyst day was a follow-on from the firm’s European event last fall. At the two events, the management team, led by Masami Yamamoto, president and representative director, and Rod Vawdrey, the president of Fujitsu’s International Business, talked about the organization’s vision and key imperatives:
Creating a common vision around “Human-Centric Intelligent Society.” Management highlighted publishing the firm’s global vision document. Speakers repeatedly pointed toward Fujitsu’s new “human-centric” vision for how information technology improves business, personal, and societal outcomes. Fujitsu is positioning itself as a provider of solutions aimed at facilitating the activities of consumers and businesses, combining elements of its hardware, software, and services portfolio.
It’s (long past) time to put the era of One Size Fits All enterprise computing behind us. Providing workers with Standard Issue™ devices and software represents an antiquated paradigm. Instead, segmenting your workforce into different classes of workers – honoring the needs of each type of worker – can help you:
Save money. Overinvesting in computing power by giving a worker “too much machine” and over-investing in software licenses for applications that won’t be used are common implications of One Size Fits All enterprise computing. You can save money by provisioning appropriate hardware and software to various classes of workers.
Preempt BYO. While IT departments are coming around to the virtues and values of BYO, managing excessively diverse BYO comes with management costs. You can preempt some types of BYO by providing the right tool to the right worker at the right time… obviating the need for them to bring their own.
Drive worker productivity and innovation. Innovations like tablets and Chromebooks can empower certain classes of workers to achieve new levels of productivity. Providing the right worker – for example, a traveling salesperson – with a tablet can enable new scenarios and create tangible returns.
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.
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.
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: