Staying Ahead of the Innovation Curve
Date: Friday , January 20, 2017
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One evening in 2008, at the LeWeb conference in Paris, Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp met and shared notes on the difficulty they had in finding taxis. Uber was born soon afterwards. Today, Uber is valued at $68 billion , and it has irreversibly changed how we commute. Not only that, the \'uberization of services\' is considered a game changing business model across domains.
The Uber origin story, for me, is the best example of how innovative thinking with a focus on changing experiences and revenue generation can change the face of any industry. Everywhere we look, new, ground breaking services are being introduced that have the power of disrupting previously stable domains. The advent of the GAFAmodel (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) digital banking, social banking and cashless economy enabled by the likes of mobile wallets have galvanized staid old bankers into transformative action. In association with Vanson Bourne, Dell Technologies polled 4,000 business leaders across 16 countries and 12 industries to assess their readiness for digital transformation. This Digital Transformation Index throws light on some of the biggest challenges before organizations today. Consider this, 62 percent of the 4000 business leaders surveyed, have witnessed new competitors entering the market because of the emergence of digital technologies. Right now, if innovation is not the name of your game, you might as well quit it.
Currently, the initiative for disruptive technology seems to be firmly entrenched within the startup economy. What makes them so successful on the innovation scale and why can\'t large enterprises also do the same? To answer that, we need to first understand what ails corporates today. Unfortunately, after years of practice, we are still unable to move out of the \'this is how it has always been done\' rut. To move fast, and in creative ways like a startup, is difficult because we are simply not used to it. Even as enterprises struggle to deal with the challenges of the digital era, start-ups are making most of the opportunities. It is no wonder that a whopping 78 percent of business leaders say that they feel threatened by startups and 45 percent fear that their business might be obsolete in five years.
There is no getting away from the necessity of investing in ground breaking, out of the box thinking and solutioning if we are to remain relevant. To begin with, I strongly believe that a total transformation of processes, technology and mind-sets is critical. Of course, this cannot be done in isolation or selectively. Even as we look at improving processes, we must address existing mind-sets and at the same time invest in new technology. Above all, we must invest time and energy on delivering value, and we will fail to do so if we don\'t understand stated and unstated customer needs. Understanding end customer requirements and addressing them even before they realize it, is one of the secrets to entrepreneurial success. Corporates must emulate it if they are to beat the startups in the innovation game.
The need for collaboration and consultation in the innovation process is perhaps one of the most undervalued principles in our world of disruption. Currently, 6 out of 10 organizations are unable to meet customer demands. I believe this is because we are not focussing on delivering value added solutions. We have allowed ourselves to become distanced from the customer and consequently, we don\'t understand what our client\'s customer wants. By restricting ourselves to the stated scope of work, we are restricting ourselves from understanding if the proposed solution is indeed what the client needs to satisfy their end customer. A consultative deep dive approach to customer engagement must be the starting point of our innovative journey. Most of the time technology companies come up with solutions during internal brainstorming sessions. While technologically sound, often times, they don\'t actually meet market demands. Caught up in the glory and self-importance of white boarding ideas, we miss out on addressing what the customer really wants. Imagine the effect of including channel partners and actual partners to the brainstorming sessions and creating solutions with their inputs on market demand. Imagine helping them build solutions on top of existing technology to create a comprehensive portfolio that hits the bull\'s eye in terms of customer asks. Imagine the impact of such an approach not just on revenues but also on customer satisfaction. At the same time, increased collaboration and cross functional working within the team is an excellent way to mine for new creative and path breaking solutions. After all, two minds are greater than one. Focussed learning and development programs are the only way to bring about this change in approach and thought.
The consultative, entrepreneurial approach is, in my opinion, only the first step to true innovation. This must also be supplemented by far reaching advancement in the kind of technology, solutions and platform capabilities we work with. SMAC (Social Mobile Analytics and Cloud) was yesterday. The future lies in leveraging newer more cutting edge technologies to help customers and perhaps even help humanity. Converged Infrastructure, Flash technologies, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, IoT, Augmented Reality, Robotics, and Automation, these are the technology trends that hold the key to a better future. Imagine the tremendous value that an AI powered investment advisor can bring to banks by analysing vast volumes of data, to suggest personalized investment plans for individual customers in a fraction of the time it would have taken earlier. Also, in my opinion, technology, if not used for enriching and helping human life, is meaningless. The impact of using cutting edge technology to build innovative solutions that can impact people at the grassroots cannot be measured in monetary value. As corporates find ways to stay fresh and relevant in an increasingly complex market place, such endeavours will perhaps be the biggest measure of their innovation success.
The technology industry has been working brilliantly to address existing market challenges. Over 66 percent of the respondents in the Dell Technologies survey say that they are incentivised to invest in IT infrastructure and digital skills leadership. The future, perhaps, lies in anticipating challenges and working creatively ahead of time to solve them; to leverage technology at the speed of business to predictively spot opportunities and deliver truly unique and personalized experiences. That to me is true innovation and the only way to stay ahead of the curve.