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:
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.
Over the past decade, BBVA has worked hard to become more customer centric and match its offerings to its customers’ needs. Given the pace of technology change, customers’ rising expectations and the digital disruption those forces cause, innovation is a critical part of the role of eBusiness and channel strategy executives. I thought I would share a few of Gustavo’s insights here for those of you who couldn’t attend. BBVA has become systematically innovative, launching a continuous succession of innovations many of which were a first in Spain, in Europe or in the world, such as:
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. . . and thanks in advance for sharing your experiences.
A few weeks ago, I attended the Meeting of the Minds 2012, a conference dedicated to urban planning and sustainability, or smart cities. The conference was a great balance of academics and nonprofit advocates, city practitioners, and technology vendors. That is to say, it was exactly what it set out to be – a “meeting of the minds” – and was refreshing for those of us who spend a lot of time in the technology world.
The event started with several walking tours of San Francisco. I joined the Arts, Innovation and Sustainability Tour of Central San Francisco. The tour started with several LEED-certified buildings, including the headquarters of the tour’s host, San Francisco Planning and Urban Research (SPUR), a nonprofit, public-private collaboration with a mission of promoting urban innovation in the city. Next up was the 5M Innovation Project, which is itself an example of urban innovation.
"Innovate or die" is not just a catchy slogan. It’s the way that businesses need to operate in this market-driven world. And, as technology underpins more and more products, services, processes, and go-to-market strategies, the CIO must be involved in driving business-impacting innovations. This involvement ranges from supporting internal R&D to unearthing and vetting new technologies out in the market that can be internalized to disrupt the status quo and propel the organization forward.
Most organizations are cognizant of this reality. However, few have mastered making innovation into a sustainable practice with defined processes that take into account the differences between incremental change and true innovation. What is needed is less hyperbole and more practical information and examples of how to the CIO can and should support an innovation process to drive business value.
To deliver, you’ll need to understand and internalize the trends, understand the business capabilities required to deliver on sustainable innovation, and assess how prepared you actually are to deliver. Based on this insight, you then need to plot out a strategy and carefully plan your people, process, and technology. From there you have implement — building out your innovation network, and developing a governance model to enforce the right behaviors. And to continually improve, you need to focus on metrics, peer comparison, and change management.
In mid-July, my colleagues and I attended Orange’s annual analyst event in Paris. There were no major announcements, but we made several observations:
ORANGE is one of the few carriers with true delivery capabilities. Its global footprint is a real advantage vis-a-vis carrier competitors, in particular in Africa and Asia. At the recent event, Vale, the Brazilian metals and mining corporation, presented a customer case study in which Vale emphasized the importance of ORANGE’s global network infrastructure for its decision to go with ORANGE as UCC and network provider. ORANGE’s global reach positions it well to address the opportunity in emerging markets, both for Western MNCs going into these markets and also to address intra-regional business in Africa and Asia. Another customer case study with the Chinese online retailer 360buy, focusing on a contact center solution, demonstrated ORANGE’s ability to win against local competitors in Asia.