Last week I attended the RSA Conference (RSAC) Innovation Sandbox for the first time. Not only was I an attendee, but I also was fortunate enough to host a CTO panel during the event. For those that aren’t aware, the Innovation Sandbox is one of the more popular programs of the RSAC week. The highlight of the Innovation Sandbox is the competition for the coveted “Most Innovative Company at the RSA Conference” award. This is basically the information security version of ABC’s Shark Tank. If you want to learn about the up-and-coming vendors and technologies, this is one place to do it. To participate, companies had to meet the following criteria:
The product has been in the market for less than one year (launched after February 2013).
The company must be privately held, with less than $5M in revenue in 2013.
The product has the potential to make a significant impact on the information security space.
The product can be demonstrated live and on-site during Innovation Sandbox.
The company has a management team that has proven successful in the delivery of products to market.
Last week I hosted Media Corp’s CIO Leaders Summit in Sydney. In addition to my emcee duties, I also moderated two panels, both of which inspired significant discussion among the more than 50 senior IT decision-makers present. Highlights included:
Peter Bourke, CIO of Westfield, helped drive a lively discussion on the changing role of the CIO and strategies for leading innovation within the organization versus simply responding to business needs.
Andrew Wiles, CIO of Vodafone, addressed the importance of talent management and the skills that IT professionals require to succeed in a fast-paced business environment.
The CTOs of Avaya and Cisco provided excellent insight from the vendor perspective, while David Gee, CIO of Credit Union Australia, wrapped up the event with a vision of the future — the “microtrends and megatrends” likely to affect our lives, both professionally and personally.
I’ve spent the past two days at Finovate Europe in London, which must be one of the more thought-provoking ways anyone in digital financial services can spend two days.
Here’s my perspective on the lessons from the event for digital financial services executives:
More people are focusing on the small business opportunity. There were far more companies proposing to help small businesses manage their finances this year, in numerous ways from access to capital through to document storage and expense management. I was particularly impressed by the work that Efigence and Idea Bank have done to help Idea Bank’s small business customers manage their finances.
Automated financial advice for mainstream customers is edging closer. For years, Forrester has talked to its clients about the huge opportunity, and pressing need, for financial firms to use software to automate the production of financial advice. A growing number of firms are trying to solve this problem from one angle or another, including Money On Toast, Vaamo, Your Wealth and Yseop. Perhaps the best quotation of the event came from Elizabeth Farabee at Yseop: “A banker doesn’t sell the customer the best product, but the product he knows best.” Automating the manufacture of advice can fix that.
My colleague John Dalton and I recently published a report outlining our major predictions for customer experience in the coming year. What we envision is perhaps best summed up by the old William Gibson quote: “The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.”
Here’s why: As I wrote in a recent post, roughly half of the attendees at Forrester’s three customer experience forums in 2013 said that their organizations are in the first phase of the path to CX maturity (repair). Their priority is — and for the immediate future will remain — finding and fixing broken experiences.
A much smaller group of companies — no more than 10% — say that their organizations are in the ultimate phase of CX maturity (differentiate). In contrast with companies in the repair phase, they'll build on their past success with well-funded efforts that leverage their skills in strategy, customer understanding, and design.
With that as background, we predict that two major themes will deserve the most attention in the coming year.
Companies in the repair phase will fight to advance along the path to customer experience maturity. Companies just starting to fix their broken experiences will find themselves in a struggle that's hard, slow, and increasingly costly. They'll focus on getting key infrastructure in place to assess what's broken, manage a portfolio of repair projects, and measure the results they need to build enterprisewide support for CX.
Holiday season musings: One of the biggest differences between the US and Britain is the great British pub. And recently I’ve been wondering about the connection between the pub and innovation.
It seems to me that Britain produces a surprising amount of innovation per capita (no doubt someone can point me to some research on this). Why do so many great innovations come from this small island?
Could it be that the great British pub has something to do with it? It’s clear that a great many innovations are nurtured and developed through the interactions between people. And the pub has always been place for social interaction. For me, one of the facets that distinguishes a great UK pub from an American bar is that it’s relatively easy to sit next to a complete stranger in a pub and strike up a deeply philosophical conversation about something of great import; in a bar, it’s almost impossible to strike up a conversation with anyone you don’t already know unless it’s related to the local sports team.
Assuming my premise is correct that there is some causative effect between the traditional local pub and innovation, what will happen to innovation in Britain with the demise of the local pub. Will we see a reduction in great innovation from the UK?
I’m part of a team called “sourcing and vendor management” (SVM). Forrester organizes its research teams by individual client roles, so my teammates and I all focus on helping clients who are sourcing and vendor management professionals. Wait a moment. Should that read “helping clients who are sourcing or vendor management professionals”? Aren’t they separate functions within a client’s organization? This is a frequent question from our clients, and one that causes a lot of internal debate within our team.
My view, formed from witnessing the experience of hundreds of enterprises, is that, at least in the software category, sourcing and supplier management should be very closely linked, but not via org structure and reporting lines. This is because:
· It is impossible to manage software suppliers effectively unless you can influence sourcing. The major players are so big and powerful that they usually have the upper hand in discussions about maintenance renewals and service levels. Even small software providers can build immovable, entrenched positions in their chosen niches. To have sufficient negotiation leverage to do a good job, the supplier manager must be able to credibly threaten to negatively impact the supplier’s ability to win future business.
· Sourcing is infrequent but intensive, whereas supplier management is continual. The former consumes huge amounts of time and effort for a relatively small period, which risks dropping the ball on monitoring while you’re immersed in a big negotiation, or missing opportunities on the sourcing side due to distractions from the ‘day job’. You therefore need different people handling each side, but collaborating closely with each other.
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.