In my recent report, “Contracting for Innovation With Service Providers,” I argue that many sourcing and vendor management professionals have difficulty contracting for innovation, because the term “innovation” itself is elusive and subject to interpretation.
In my research, I note that for sourcing professionals to effectively contract for innovation, they need to be able to understand the business objectives of a broad base of internal innovation stakeholders – and consider whether their service providers can align with these objectives. In the report, I considered the needs of three primary stakeholders – IT, business, and executive-level stakeholders.
But there are far more innovation stakeholders. After writing that report, I decided to review all of Forrester’s inquiries related to innovation over the past year to see if I could identify other innovation stakeholders. After a review of about 500 detailed client inquiries about innovation, I’ve compiled a list of categories I have seen.
This list of innovation interests is quite diverse (and this is just a preliminary summary!). But the exercise helps us see how innovation is interpreted differently by different parts of the organization. With this information, we can identify unique innovation objectives and have a much more informed discussion about what innovation is and how it is generated (eventually leading us to conversations about specific topics like structures, metrics, and goals).
Over the past few months, I had the opportunity to interview representatives from 10 leading technology service providers about how they help their clients innovate. My recent research summarizing those interviews is available to Forrester clients on our website. For those interested in the high level points I raised, here are a few of the key findings:
During a recent set of interviews with IT service providers on how they help their client’s innovate, I had the opportunity to speak with K Ananth Krishnan, CTO at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). Ananth described to me what I consider to be one most progressive innovation programs I encountered during these interviews – it was consistent with TCS’s capabilities, holistic in scope, and has the potential to be a important part of the company’s long-term evolution.
A few key findings from my discussion with Ananth:
CIO job tenure is now averaging 4.6 years, according to the Society for Information Management. That’s up – way up -- from the 2-3 year average that we saw just a few years ago. How do you explain the lengthening time in job? Is it just because CIOs are better at their jobs than CEOs or CFOs who have higher churn rates? Probably not.
My guess is that the post dot-com bust and post 9/11 recession triggered CIOs to hunker down and be a bit more risk-adverse. They stayed put for a few years, then facing the more recent economic slump, stayed put even longer. They stayed busy doing what they unfortunately are known for -- helping with enterprise cost cutting. More reactive, more cost conscious, and less innovative CIOs are less likely to take risks and less likely to be fired for risk-taking.
But I suspect the trend towards longer tenure is rapidly coming to an end. The CIOs I speak with are eagerly waking up to tackle innovation and new investments in 2010. And we’re seeing more and more ex-consultant hot shots and business execs from elsewhere in the company recently hired on to “fix IT” join the CIO ranks. More proactive, innovative, and impactful CIOs are more likely to follow ambitious career paths – or (if your a glass-half-empty kind of guy or girl) get fired for risk-taking.
In my recent interviews with IT services providers on the topic of innovation, one of the key findings was the many different ways in which innovation can be categorized. Some companies view innovation as simply an extension of their traditional R&D capabilities, others view their innovation as a way to prove their thought leadership, still others view innovation largely as a strategic marketing imperative. Sometimes, it’s a combination of these factors.
One interview that stood out was with Lem Lasher, the Chief Innovation Officer (and Global Business Services President) at CSC, who described to me a deep and holistic approach to transforming CSC’s innovation capabilities. Three things that stood out at me about Lem’s approach:
If the seventies and eighties were dominated by technology-led innovation, with IT in the driving seat, the nineties and two thousands was surely the period of marketing-led innovation. With the emergence of social computing as such a big influence on business, spreading rapidly beyond the sole domain of marketing, it seems we are entering a new era - the era of Social Innovation.
In this era, innovation will be driven by empowered customers and employees and IT and Marketing will need to join forces and collaborate as never before. The CIO and the CMO, IT and Marketing, will jointly power this new era of Social Innovation by bringing together their extensive domain expertise to create a Social Innovation Network.
The way I see it, true Social Innovation goes beyond customer interaction and idea generation, it requires a powerful and coordinated network of players to take customer-generated innovation and to test, scale and implement it. IT has a key role to play in this Social Innovation Network as the broker, helping to connect the network players and components and to establish the management, strategy and technological backbone of the network.
Building off of Tom Grant's post about Google Buzz earlier today, Google Buzz is an interesting case study about how winning market share is not just about having the first or the best product. It is often about having a product (including marketing and sales) that does the best job at getting users to use it and getting developers to create quality content.
Google knows this better than anyone, and which is why they just released a product that they hope will be easier to adopt than Twitter or Facebook. Google Buzz is not fully baked and its privacy settings are badly broken; however its intended audience already uses Gmail and just had this new tool literally dropped into their inboxes. Google is probably hoping to replicate its successful introduction of GChat, an instant messaging client that was substantially worse than any other when it was introduced in late 2005 but today enjoys widespread adoption because it is on by default for anyone logged into Gmail and was gradually improved.
Non-social products can survive with gradually declining market share for a number of years, and then potentially come back if users become convinced that their offering is superior. However a social media product without users is a ghost town, a phenomena that MySpace knows well as their CEO leaves today.
This is not a battle over who has the neatest features; it's a battle over who will be the most successful at capturing user time, an increasingly limited resource.
Therefore: Do you think the technical problems with Google Buzz, both privacy and other, are enough to stop it from gaining broad adoption, at least among existing Gmail users?