Archive for the ‘VIP’ Category

Balancing Privacy, Security and Access

August 4, 2017

PrivacySecurity

FountainBlue’s July 28 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘Balancing Privacy, Security and Access’. Please join me in thanking our executives in attendance and our gracious hosts at Palo Alto Networks. Below are notes from the conversation.

As a responsible customer, government official, executive, vendor, partner, consumer, parent, citizen, we must continually look at balancing the need for convenience and access with the need to remain secure and compliant, the need to get things done efficiently and the need to protect against malicious and unintended negative consequences.

It becomes increasingly more important to do so as technology is enabling more people access to more solutions, devices and technologies. With the increasing occurrence of alarming security breaches and astounding examples of privacy breaches, governments are implementing policy updates to protect its citizens, corporations are implementing mandates and requirements, and partners and customers, and professionals and consumers are left wondering how to proactively manage their data, their devices, their security.

It’s a fact that leaders in companies and governments and households have a larger view of the impact should there be breaches in security and privacy. However, should mandates, policies, devices and other limitations on usage and access become too inconvenient for those under management, they may be less cooperative, less complicit as their focus is more on getting something done, and not necessarily on what the implications are should a risk actually be realized.

It’s clear that companies are required to track, manage and enforce regulations and policies, but it’s also clear that they must proactively secure themselves and their staff and proactively communicate about any compromising hacks. Companies are also required to track staff information, but also be able to report information which is to be retained by the company even after her/his departure. It’s also incumbent upon the staff member to ensure that private information remains private – not on company cloud or e-mail for example.

The trick is to align all the stakeholders to agree on the larger goal – to get things done while minimizing associated risks around security breaches. It takes a combination of mandates and policies and cooperation between all parties to successfully and proactively manage that balance. 

Equally important is the ability to provide the customer what they need, and even anticipating their need, while also complying with the privacy and security requirements of the companies and the governments involved.

There’s a clear up-side to collecting data – products and services would be more customized to personal needs and preferences. It’s great when that happens as it saves people time, but there’s also a nagging ‘big brother’ feeling if the predictions are intrusive, if they are wrong, if they force customers to do something they didn’t sign up for…

Change is happening quickly, and many are weighing in to influence policies and directions are there are business, political and social implications. For example, many eyes are on the EU and the May 2018 decision for the GDPR, even for those who aren’t European residents/EU members. 

I’ll conclude with a comparison mapping this balancing act with driving. 

  • Within the US, drivers know what the speed limits are, how to drive, which side of the road to drive on, how to obey signs and signals. Although accidents and problems happen, it generally works.
    • But cars are able to go much faster than the speed limit, and drivers can generally do so without negative consequence unless there’s a ticket or an accident. Similarly, staff members may know that they shouldn’t keep private information on the company cloud, and many may do so without negative consequence, unless there’s a privacy breach.
    • Traffic rules and protocols vary outside the country and even between cities. Similarly, security and privacy policies vary across companies and countries.
  • The rules and protocols are much more clear, more accepted, more established, more supported through documentation, etc., But the rules around balancing privacy, security and access are not at all clear in many circumstances. Thus we are all feeling our way through the many variables, trying to align all the motivations involved for all the players.

It’s a complex time with many factors and many leaders and companies weighing in as this balance impacts our daily work and home lives. 

Stretching the Technology and Business Envelope

July 28, 2017

Revenue-Generation.png

FountainBlue’s July 28 VIP roundtable, on the topic of ‘Stretching the Technology and Business Envelope’! Please join me in thanking our gracious hosts at Texas Instruments, who on-site support and joined in the interactive discussion. Below is a compilation of their ideas and thoughts for stretching the Technology and Business Envelope.  

Be Strategic

  • Have a core strength and value-add and build on that strength.
  • Strategically target markets and leaders with specific needs you can address.
  • Understand how your offering stands out from the competition. 
  • Strategize on which markets to approach and how you can build momentum.

Operationalize for Success.

  • Create an infrastructure and platform and partner with clients to launch products and services.
  • Identify the pain and provide reports with dashboards of information the customer defines as important.
  • Identify the earliest root causes for a known problem and notify stakeholders when these scenarios occur.
  • Understand the policies and mandates and their implications for your target industries and customers.

Support Innovation and Creativity.

  • Balance structure and requirements which sets the direction with flexibility and fluidity to welcome creativity and innovation.
  • Design opportunities to innovate from within, using corporate funding and resources and channels and incorporating entrepreneurial teams and ideas.

It All Comes Down to Leadership.

  • Invest in the seasoned leaders who can deliver the software requirements and the hardware needs.
  • Be creative, persistent, courageous, while also being prepared and strategic.

Facilitating Hyper-Growth

June 5, 2017

Concept of increasing sales from mobile online shopping

FountainBlue’s June 5 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘Facilitating Hypergrowth’. Please join me in thanking our gracious hosts at Intel, who on-site support and joined in the interactive discussion, and to this month’s participating executives.

Below is a compilation of their ideas and thoughts on how we to facilitate hypergrowth from the people, process and technology perspectives. 

It’s always about the people. 

 

  • Create a company with a purpose and a culture of empowered leaders who are taking specific measures to achieve those goals. 
  • Look for people who are talented technically, yet also passionate about learning and making a difference. They must be challenged in a way that’s meaningful for them, stretching their thinking and their impact and their network and connections.
  • Invite initiative and input, and reward those who go the extra mile, and volunteer to participate in new and meaningful ways.
  • Look for, nurture and recruit those who are customer-centric.
  • Create an ecosystem of people and leaders from within and outside an organization, focused on a common goal and purpose.

 

Embrace a process that supports rapid growth.

  • Decide which processes help your business unit respond efficiently and effectively as defined by specific measurements. Replicate these processes elsewhere.
  • Adopt the SMURF perspective – process solutions which are Scalable, Maintainable, Usable, Reliable, Functional and Secure.
  • Decompose the processes into modules. Decide which modules should be automated and which ones should be individually customized. Design solutions integrating these modules.
  • Review and update your processes regularly to ensure relevance and effectiveness.

Adopt and Create Technologies in Demand

  • Keep an eye on the market, business and technology trends and design solutions based on those trends.
  • Hot areas for hypergrowth include IoT, Blockchain, Workflow solutions on the cloud, Security and privacy solutions for the enterprise, Software-enabled virtualization, Software-enabled networks, AI, AR/VR, Edge Networks, and unstructured data management

Below is a compilation of best practices for facilitating hypergrowth.

  • Dare to have an audacious vision for the future.
  • Enlist others to follow.
  • Embrace the thoughts and perspectives of people who don’t think-like-you, for she/he will represent a valid perspective as well.
  • Visualize the impact you can provide. Choose leaders who can help you visualize that impact. Communicate that impact in a way which would engage and enlist others.
  • Be specific on what you’d like to do, and versatile on how it could get done.
  • Act like the-little-engine-that-could, despite impressive opposition and incredible odds.
  • Lead the transformation to a digital solution, a digital culture… or risk being left behind.
  • Not everyone can get from here to there. Focus on those who will lead pivots, or are at least open to a pivot when necessary.

The bottom line is that it takes visionary leadership, exceptional execution, and continuous communication to ensure sustained hyper-growth. Select a company and a team that is poised for that hyper-growth, and contribute to the people, process and technology choices which would nurture and sustain that growth.

Being Human in an Age That’s Digital

May 8, 2017

HumanDigital

FountainBlue’s May 5 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘Being Human in an Age That’s Digital’! Please join me in thanking our gracious hosts at Samsung and our participating executives. Below is a compilation of their ideas and thoughts on how we are stretching the technology envelope. 

There was a mind-boggling discussion about how each participating company and leader is pushing the technology envelope for a Digital Tsunami with the hardware, the software, the data, analytics, AI…  The brilliance, hard work and perseverance is advancing technology solutions at an increasingly rapid pace, and the lives of almost all of us are forever changed by it.

  • Machines and programs and technology innovations are collecting the information and data necessary to make informed decisions. Humans need to make these decisions, hopefully based on the data and information collected.
  • Great minds are collaboratively designing and implementing solutions which solve the world’s problems – even the ones caused by over-population, like food production and housing at scale. But it will take humans to create and implement and integrate these solutions, and prioritize resources and research to ensure that the largest amount of people benefit in the short term and for the long term.
  • Creating innovation labs focused on solving the requests and needs of those customers just makes sense, especially as change happens so quickly, and customers become increasingly more demanding. No matter how sophisticated these digital and IoT and other solutions get, remember that managing and running the interactions, relationships and entities themselves requires experienced humans.
  • Machines and programs may be great at providing historical data in rich and detailed formats, but are not as good as seasoned humans who can do forecasting and predictions based on historical data, and current conditions and trends.
  • It takes a human to make an irrational risk that could lead to a transformational solution or experience.
  • It takes a human to create and deliver an engaging, persuasive and memorable communication and experience which connects with other humans.
  • Although IoT and other innovations will facilitate vast improvements for healthcare and education and all other industries, humans will be in charge, and it will remain difficult to delegate interactions and duties to machines and programs and drones.

Below is advice on how to balance the need for those sophisticated digital innovations with the need to support the humans who implement them.

  • Think about solutions as interactions between people, between things, and between people and things. 
  • Think not just about how to innovate and what would work, but also about what would get adopted and accepted easily. 
  • Look not just at the current anticipated value, but also at the stickiness of the value-add for the solution in the long term.
  • Consider not just the solution you’d like to implement, but also the transition strategy so that the full ecosystem of stakeholders will embrace the new solution.

The bottom line is that technology and innovation will never replace the educated, hard-working human. But humans who chose not to embrace technology, not to keep up with the digital revolution may find that there’s little place in the workforce for their skill set.

IT Trends and Predictions

April 12, 2017
ITTrendsFountainBlue’s April 7 VIP roundtable was on the topic of IT Trends and Predictions.
Please join me in thanking our executives in attendance and our gracious hosts at Flex, who also joined the interactive discussion. Below is a compilation of their ideas and thoughts on IT trends and predictions.
  • The overarching theme for the conversation was a remarkable level of convergence of ideas, technologies, and business models across industries, companies and leaders. 
  • Another theme was around the need to integrate the vision, planning, development, growth and expansion of any individual solution, working in collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders – investors, corporations, entrepreneurs, government, etc.,
  • Disruption is sometimes planned and sometimes fortuitous, but always requires an open mind, an ability to see larger trends, and a tendency to listen to what the customers are doing and saying. Having the people, data, and support to ensure that these disruptions take place will also support the innovation agenda for the organization.
  • Growing a concept from the tactical (like solutions for cars) to the category description (like mobility and transportation) will help companies to broaden their outcome and better see inter-relationships and opportunities.
  • Digital will be at the heart of innovation, but only if it can provide the AI and data to support customized solutions for a demanding customer base.
  • An integrated ecosystem of stakeholders requires collaboration between leaders, companies and industries in order to develop integrated, scalable solutions serving a wide range of customers. Being that type of leader and company worthy of trust will define the level of success for any endeavor, so competence and integrity are key.
  • The volume of information will increase, the expectations from customers, investors and other stakeholders will also be elevated. So it’s all about the execution at scale, at pace. Make the processes repeatable, the solutions robust, and the technology modular and flexible.
  • Everybody wants to leverage data to make a business case, but unfortunately, the data can point to some irrelevant and superstitious or self-serving conclusions, which wastes time, energy and money. To address this challenge, make sure that you are asking the right questions, that you have high-integrity leaders asking those questions, that you approach the questions with an open mind, and that you include the right data to address these questions. Then look not just at what the data is saying, but also at what it’s not saying and the implications for both. In other words, Big Data is not relevant unless you have Big Answers.
  • Core to the success of a solution and initiative is the question ‘who will pay for that innovation’? This is especially valid in highly regulated markets like healthcare. We might have a big-data-driven, sophisticated IT and AI solution, but if the patient, the provider, the insurer, the government, the caregiver can’t pay, the quandary becomes who will pay and what’s the pay-back for them if they do?
  • Policy will limit and define opportunities, so business models must take policy trends into account.
  • Inviting the diverse, out-of-the-box team members will reflect well on the company culture, the corporate exec, the forward-thinking entrepreneur, and the bottom line. Think about hiring people not necessarily for their technical capabilities, but also for their creative abilities.
  • It will always be about the people, so recruit, develop and retain those who can perform well, learn well, adapt and grow. They will shape the future of IT and business in general.
Below is a list of opportunities ahead for IT:
  • In a connected world with so many devices and solutions, integration and communication between devices is key.
  • Having that secure access to integrated devices and solutions is equally key.
  • The sheer volume of data will continue to grow. But big data solutions are not enough. There will continue to be a huge market for solutions which filter out only the ‘relevant’ data, as defined by the customer, to ‘normalize’ that data reducing redundancies and inconsistencies, so data-based decisions can be made.
  • Big data solutions which provide diagnostic solutions leveraging AI and IT will create and expand markets in all sectors.
  • Leverage open source solutions and collaboration models to build ecosystems and solutions.
  • Leverage technology to address the social challenges which matter to the millennials, a large and growing customer constituency.
  • The markets will be niche and regionalized, the range will be global, so plan solutions accordingly. 
In conclusion, I would say that today’s challenges are tomorrow’s opportunities, but nobody can be everything to everyone and the winners will be part of an coordinated, comprehensive ecosystem of providers, customers, integrators and innovators.

Collaboration Best Practices

March 6, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 1.08.55 PMFountainBlue’s March 3 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘Collaboration Best Practices’. Please join me in thanking the executives in attendance and our gracious hosts at SignKloud and Techlab Innovation Center.

The executives in attendance at this month’s roundtable represented a wide range of industries, roles, functions and company sizes. Below is a compilation of their ideas collaboration best practices leveraging technology and processes.

The conversation flowed through many technologies, solutions, stories and challenges around collaboration. Central to the conversation is the need for strong leadership, transparent and continual communication, alignment on near term and long term goals/mission/strategy across the organization, and continuous assessments and reviews to ensure that all of the above takes place. Below is advice on how to best facilitate that collaboration across stakeholders:

  • Identify and engage all stakeholders across the ecosystem and work toward common goals and milestones.
  • Proactively collaborate to create processes and adopt technologies that support the achievement of those goals.
  • Be fluid in selecting the goals, technologies and processes you leverage to achieve those goals, for change is a certainty, and the speed of change is accelerating.
  • Include a wider diversity of perspectives and people within your team, and a broader swath of partners and customers outside your team.
  • Balance in-person and video communications.
  • Physically locate teams in one geography, making sure that they have representation across all necessary functional areas so there are no inefficient road blocks due to logistical, operational or time-zone related challenges.
  • Locate corporate leadership team in one physical location for easier coordination and communication.
  • Teams may be in different geographies based on acquisition history. This may work well, provided that the product leadership team is located near corporate leadership team.
  • Have regular Agile-style stand-up, all-hands meeting to facilitate communication, collaboration and coordination, to increase overall accountability and to improve connections between people and projects.
  • Create integrated technologies and processes which take a project end-to-end, while also providing ongoing support.
  • Ask the perennial questions in this order: What are we doing? Why are we doing it? How does it fit into our overall strategy? What are the metrics for success? How are we doing towards those goals? Should we change any element of our strategy based on metrics and feedback? REPEAT.
  • Hire the young blood to get things done, but also know when to bring in to the seasoned hands to lead. It takes a village and everyone should have a piece of the puzzle.
  • Know your non-negotiables for yourself, for your project, for your company, and stand behind them.
  • Communicate the following every week: What you did last week. What you plan to do next week. What you need from management to make things happen.

Below is a compilation of ideas on new and hot ideas around tech and process collaboration.

  • The innovations in data analytics, artificial intelligence, etc., are facilitating noteworthy innovations in genomic research which are leading to real-life, near term business solutions which also help patients and providers make data-based decisions around their health.
  • Healthcare is a lagging industry which is just beginning to adopt collaboration technologies and processes which will continue to transform the industry. There will be implications for: precision medicine, genomic research, patient diagnostics, medical devices, etc.,
  • Cybersecurity is a hot area in all industries.
  • There will be increased communication and coordination between people, technologies, and processes which impact all industries. Watch specifically for transformations in automobile, consumer home and health, retail, and everything in between.
  • Adding an element of creativity to existing technologies and processes may create attractive new solutions and business models. 

Below is a list of recommended collaboration tools.

  • Slack – Slack brings all your communication together in one place. It’s real-time messaging, archiving and search for modern teams.
  • HipChat – HipChat is group chat built for teams & business.
  • WebEx – WebEx online meetings and presentations, webinars, town halls, online courses and training, and online presentations.
  • Zoho – Run your entire business with Zoho’s suite of online productivity tools and SaaS applications.
  • Salesforce – Build more meaningful and lasting relationships and connect with your customers across sales, customer service, marketing, communities, apps, analytics, and more
  • Chatter on Salesforce – Allow Employees to Share Knowledge,Drive Productivity & Innovate. 
  • Confluence – Confluence is where you create, organize and discuss work with your team.
  • JIRA – JIRA Software offers flexible issue and project tracking with best-in-class agile tooling for software teams.
  • Skype – Skype is software that enables you to make free calls anywhere in the world. 
  • RealtimeBoard: Whiteboard for Collaboration

The bottom line is that all businesses are run by people, and selecting technologies and processes which suit your people, and hiring people who fit that culture is a rudimentary requirement for success and growth.

ISMAC is Where It’s At

January 21, 2017

ISMAC.jpg

FountainBlue’s January 13 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘ISMAC is Where It’s At: What’s Hot in Immersive, Secure, Mobility, Analytics and Cloud Technologies for 2017. Please join me in thanking our gracious hosts at TCV, and our executives in attendance.

This month’s roundtable executives represented a wide range of industries, roles, functions and company sizes. Therefore, their perspectives around the what’s hot and what’s next would vary greatly. However, there’s agreement that we are on the cusp of great change in the way we adopt technology and in the way we do business.

  • Open source technologies will be integral to address technology opportunities and challenges.
  • There are an abundance of solutions in the areas of ISMAC. But integration of a wide range of disparate solutions are necessary to address the wide ranging needs of customers. 
  • Adoption of new solutions and integrations will be difficult for all companies and all industries, with different issues for each company and industry. Policy, leadership, standards and protocols, etc., will all factor in throughout the adoption and integration cycle.
  • Starting first with the adoption of Salesforce and other cloud-based solutions, there’s been an increasingly marked shift in focus to adopting cloud solutions, with less reliance on IT staff and support prior to the integration.
  • DevOps is becoming a more important target and beta market as they are 1) close to the customer, 2) open to integrating new technologies, 3) tech-savvy enough to understand options and requirements, 4) increasingly more important and empowered, 5) historically known for quick deployment, and 6) known for creating libraries, modules and protocols to support rapid implementation for new and upgraded solutions. 
  • With that said, DevOps divisions in general has not historically not had the budget or the inclination to buy enterprise-targeted solutions.
  • Therefore, business units within enterprises may be more logical targets for enterprise solutions. However, working with DevOps initially would increase likelihood of success for a project and sale.

The collective advice of our executives is summarized below.

  • Create an architecture and infrastructure, and an ability to do regular updates. This would support a solution in the near term and for the long term. An example of doing this successfully is to create a security layer like a coat of armor around a solution, and then making it easy to provide modular updates based on ongoing threats and needs – much like a flu shot.
  • Collaboration between technologists and business leaders is essential for delivering to the needs of the customer.
  • Although DevOps might be a great initial partner for other technologies, security solutions may not be as interesting to DevOps members.  
  • Although selling solutions to engineers and DevOps team members might be attractive for many reasons, companies such as AppDynamics and Splunk are finding more success selling to enterprise business units. 
  • When looking at the security of medical devices, you must first consider the health and welfare of the patient. The security of an application is not of primary concern if the life of a patient is at stake.
  • When the health challenge is not critical and more ongoing and chronic, like diabetes treatment solutions, there’s more latitude to ensure the privacy of the patient data, while also collecting aggregated data for medical research and clinical application. 
  • Agencies such as the FDA are not well positioned to review and set protocols for the adoption of tech-based devices or cloud-based applications, yet this is their mandate. A wide range of stakeholders are working with these types of agencies to forge a path forward.

Below are some hot areas to watch.

  • Leveraging AI for voice recognition may help virtual assistance better serve customers, beyond what Alexa and Siri are doing today.
  • Integrators who work with the wide range of stakeholders on track the adoption of standards are well positioned to help customers integrate a wide breadth of solutions to address specific problems.
  • Modular solutions which follow standardized protocols and open source elements will be more likely to be adopted. 
  • Find ways to leverage aggregated data to generate targeted reports tailored to the needs of the customers. 
  • Find ways to monetize open source – perhaps by creating customized, dynamically-generated reports.
  • Find ways to containerize/modularize elements to ensure cleaner and more robust scalability and security.
  • IoT solutions will continue to be hot. Those that integrate well with others and fit protocols and standards will be more readily adopted.

The overarching message is that technology innovation will require more leadership, more collaboration and better coordination and better communication.

M&A Best Practices

December 7, 2016

mergersFountainBlue’s December 2 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘M&A Best Practices’,and was graciously hosted by NetApp. The executives in attendance at this month’s roundtable represented a wide range of industries, roles, functions and company sizes. Therefore, their perspectives around the planning, envisioning and execution of a success merger, acquisition and integration vary greatly. However, there’s agreement that:

  • Plan-fully envisioning and executing a successful M&A is a team effort.
  • Transparent, strategic and ongoing communication between all affected parties is critical to the success of any integration.
  • M&A deals are bigger and faster than they’ve been in the past, with the potential to transform markets and industries, with BIG companies buying each other, with companies buying new products, channels and markets, etc.
  • Some companies are more ‘acquisition-minded’ than others. Those that are generally have a complex and comprehensive process to help ensure that the integration goes well end to end and generally measure specific data points, agreed prior to the initiation of a merger, whether the data is around innovation/technology deliverables or Gartner hype curve appearance, operational cost optimization or lowered support and outreach costs, improved distribution channels or larger footprint in specific geographies.
  • The trend toward having a broader and more diverse, more demanding customer base will continue to evolve. Corporate M&A strategists will take this into account.

The collective advice of our executives is summarized below.

  • When you are looking at best merger opportunities, consider not just the market landscape, customer base and technology fit, but look also at the cultural fit. Even if everything else fits well, the lack of cultural fit can immensely impact the success of a merger.
  • Seasoned M&A leaders know the cycle of response around M&A events – from the ‘shock’ to the ‘work overload’ phase, and on to the ‘disillusionment’ and then the ‘acceptance’ phase, and on from there to the ‘search-for-the-next-deal’ phase. Sharing their stories and experience will help companies retain their best people through these high-change cycles.
  • Understand their motivations and facilitate collaboration between stakeholders.
  • Plan-fully and pro-actively manage the integration from beginning to end through an Integration Playbook highlighting People, Process and Technology details. Know when it’s business as usual for the integration, and when something is urgent, who which exec needs to respond in what manner in order to get the integration on track. Make sure that happens – the success of the deal may depend on it.
  • Build relationships with all stakeholders. Know what their role is for the integration process. If possible, know also how they would respond to stress and change prior to their being subjected to it. Have a plan B if plan A may not work out.
  • With ongoing communications based on measurable results, also include self-assessments. Make sure that everyone has the time and support and resources to deliver their piece of the puzzle to help keep the integration project on-track.
  • Ensure clear and ongoing executive sponsorship throughout the M&A deal.
  • No matter how much you plan for the merger, no matter how well it’s going, no matter how quickly or elegantly it’s coming together, there will be surprises and unintended consequences. Accept that this will happen, and respond and react using your best judgment, while aligning motivations and remaining transparent and communicative.
  • Be clear on what must be done, what’s nice to be done, what doesn’t need to be done yet, and what will never happen. Negotiate with important stakeholders if you’re not in alignment on which buckets each objective or task fits in.

Below are how to best leverage mergers to grow a business.

  • Identify adjacent markets and technologies location for expansion.
  • Know the value and timing for fast organic group, for new market growth, for headcount growth, for industry consolidation, etc.,
  • Find higher-margin services and customizations for low-margin businesses.

Again, please join me in thanking our participating execs and our hosts at NetApp.

In Search of Unicorns

November 4, 2016

pegasusFountainBlue’s November 11 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘In Search of Unicorns’ hosted by Samsung.

The executives in attendance at this month’s roundtable represented a wide range of industries, roles, functions and company sizes. Therefore, their perspectives on what it means to be entrepreneurial, what’s hot and what’s not varied greatly. However, there’s agreement that:

  • The innovation ecosystem will include investors, entrepreneurs, executives and providers. Interactive conversations and collaborations will become increasingly more important.
  • We should all value the openness and creativity of the entrepreneurs, the resources, channels and funding of the corporate partners, as well as the funding and vision of the investors, for each has a piece of the puzzle.
  • Perhaps we should re-think whether we’re looking for ‘unicorns’. So many companies are captivated by the mythical element, or the horn, and miss the importance of the wings – wings which transcend what regular horses can do. So perhaps a winged horse, a ‘Pegasus’, will more likely lead us to that billion dollar company.

The collective advice of our executives is summarized below.

  • What you’ve learned throughout your business journey may feed into your future entrepreneurial efforts. So take the time to learn about what worked and what didn’t work in terms of business models and processes and in terms of technology. The answers will lie in efficiently delivering what customers are looking for.
  • Work within the needs of the customer, the mind-sets of the players in the industry, the processes embraced over decades. But find ways to provide innovation which would fit into all these forces as well.
  • Corporates may value the technology innovation over the current adoption rate of the start-up. A company’s R&D and manufacturing centers, network of partner and channel contacts, access to funding, etc. may help that promising unicorn realize its potential.
  • Whether you’re facilitating innovation conversations between teams within an organization, encouraging customers to adopt of the latest solutions, or fostering the introduction of a new hardware, software or government standard, it’s always about getting influential people to adopt a new way of thinking or speaking or doing something, and encouraging others to do the same.
  • All industries will be transformed by the immersive, social, mobile, analytics, IOT and cloud solutions.

Below are opportunities ripe for innovation.

  • Seek opportunities to transform how we do things now, leveraging IT, big data and automation. 
  • Seek opportunities to provide integrated end-to-end solutions.
  • Voice recognition leveraging Natural Language Processing and Artificial Intelligence will continue to be of foundational importance. 
  • Automate functions which connect vetted providers with those-in-need, UBER style. Whether it’s connecting substitute teachers to classrooms, or connecting companies with excess food to nonprofits who distribute food (like gocopia.com), automating that connection adds value to all.
  • Innovative ways to digitally vet health status of patients with certified health professionals may save people and companies time and money in spades.
  • Look inside out and outside in to find those upside-down ways of addressing existing challenges. Embrace people with diverse perspectives who can help solve problems in new ways, leveraging IT, software, and devices.
  • Look for solutions beyond our world, and into the stratosphere to address a whole new layer of solutions – above the realm of drones, and within the earth’s atmosphere.
  • Connect the digital solution to the physical world. 

We are on the cusp of innovations in all markets at an astronomical scale. The world as we know it will become much bigger than we could ever imagine, and we can all choose to participate and shape that direction, to create a bigger, brighter, more collaborative and more efficient future.

Best Practices in Collaborative Innovation

October 8, 2016

innovation

FountainBlue’s October 7 VIP roundtable was on the topic of Best Practices in Collaborative Innovation. The executives in attendance at this month’s roundtable represented a wide range of industries, roles, functions and company sizes. Therefore, their perspectives on what it means to be innovative, what it takes to collaborate, how to remain relevant and provide value differed greatly, but they agreed on the following:

  • Innovation centers around having open, honest, transparent conversations between a wide range of stakeholders within and outside an organization.
  • Everyone sees innovation with a slightly different slant, and all have valid perspectives which could be integrated into solutions.
  • Everyone has a role in facilitating a culture of innovation, so that the best, the most diverse, the brightest want to remain and can succeed on their terms.
  • The pace of innovation is rapidly increasing, and convergences across teams, product lines, companies and industries will geometrically increase that pace of innovation.
  • Being aware of the larger business and technology trends will help tech leaders keep themselves and their products and companies relevant.

The collective advice of our executives is summarized below.

  • Choose to be nimble and agile, tech-philic and client-centric in order to stay relevant, and move the needle forward.
  • Collaborate with customers and partners to deliver a collection of custom and/or reusable solutions which may serve other purposes. Adopting this reverse-hackathon mindset means that you start with a specific problem and a specific customer in mind – a problem painful enough so that funding and resources are allocated to address the problem.
  • Talk about applications and use cases, not just the technology for its own sake, brilliant as it may be.
  • Create opportunities for being entrepreneurial within a big company, so that you get the stability and funding of the big company, and the new ideas for R&D and innovation.
  • Balance the big company and small company mindset when managing teams through integrations. You want to make sure the technology and engineers are cutting edge, but it must also fit within the processes and requirements of the larger company as well.
  • Embrace open source options where possible, engaging the larger ecosystem and community. With that said, make sure that there’s an appropriate business model for the product line and the company so that the solution is sustainable.
  • Engage in side projects beyond your normal day-to-day scope of work. 
  • Have an agile structure for moving projects forward, a model for engagement, for rapid adoption, for prioritizing for repositioning. This is true whether it applies to software development or marketing and business model creation.
  • Combine and connect solutions to develop seamless, integrated infrastructure layers and solutions which would build value.
  • Collaborate with researchers, other tech companies, customers, partners, manufacturers,  even competitors etc., Sometimes you’ll have awkward fre-nemy-like relationships, but finding a way to collaborate for that win-win could benefit all parties. With that said, use your best judgment on whom you can trust in the short term and in the long term, what to share when, etc.
  • Develop international partnerships to deliver solutions to different global markets. Or build the expertise in-house so that you have a vetted and valid strategy for approaching different markets with specific products and solutions. 
  • Build communities of practice to foster internal collaborations and vendor forums so outside vendors can connect and communicate.
  • Develop automations so that you can efficiently create, communicate and collaborate, within and across companies.
  • Allow customers to self-select their level of interest so that you can focus on the customers you can best support, and who has the most interest and funding for your solution.
  • Provide ‘air cover’ for your most promising engineers so that they can have the time and resources to innovate/seek that executive who could provide you with that air coverage so that you can innovate.
  • Beware of the leader who keeps talking about leadership without doing anything, the innovator who keeps talking about innovating without doing anything, who keeps espousing the merits of diversity without doing anything.
  • Reward failures.
  • Consciously and methodically create and capture value while you innovate collaboratively.
  • Facilitate open and honest dialogue, especially with people who don’t think and act like you do.
  • Pay it forward, give back, without the expectation of getting something in return.

There was overwhelming agreement amongst our execs: collaborative innovation must begin and end with the needs of the customer, and delivering to those needs in an agile, iterative, replicative, personalized way, leveraging hardware, software, data, mobile and cloud solutions.

Please join us in thanking our execs who generously shared their time and insights for this conversation and to our hosts at Cisco.

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