What's beneath the Surface?

Microsoft after talking about the much hyped Windows 8 for over a year, which lead to speculation around how the PC World and the world of lighter compact tablet computers will intersect, has finally announced Surface. An apparently well designed Microsoft tablet PC with design intricacies that are widely published. However the most interesting pitch is that the Surface will not only be your bed time read but also your Ultrabook.

Applications2Apps and Enterprise ecosystems

Revolutionizing conventional enterprise systems.

The Virtual Transformation

In a world with an insatiable appetite for communication the vision statements have dramatically changed. Everyone is leaving their desktops behind and moving into the cloud and soon reaching for the stars. In an increasingly mobile world instant gratification is top order.

Living in the Clouds

Us humans have walked the planet earth for over 200,000 years. In this time we have seen a stone age, bronze age, the industrial revolution and now we are entering a new age which is just as pivotal, what could be called the age of the cloud.

Keeping tabs

I practically live in my computer, but sort of ties you down at home or you got to lug around the laptop all over town. There are a host of tablet beings launched making the task of choosing one painful. So let’s flip it around, why not look at what I want my tablet to do and not do.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Spin Twins, Rising Stars and a Faltering God

The recently concluded test series between India and New Zealand was as expected a one sided affair, yet crucial for India to return to their winning ways even against a New Zealand side that seams to have lost the skills to fight.

The highlight of the one sided first test was the rise of a new spin partnership between Ojha and Ashwin, who looked like the only bowlers in a side bereft of bowling talent. Zaheer’s pace and therefore his penetration is falling at an alarming rate and Yadav’s wayward performance can be compared to on-field bouts of diarrhea. India produced a rank turner taking us back to the dark days of the 90s when Azhar’s Eleven thrashed opponents on dust bowls, only to capitulate on sporting wickets.  What was refreshing was both spinners were unafraid to toss the ball with accuracy, guile and variety, giving hope to what seems to be a dying art in a country once rich with reserves.

Two young-rising stars demonstrated technique and application on a sporting track in Bangalore. The seamers were on top and the rest of the batsmen looked like a T-20 squad that wandered into a test. Pujara’s balance on the front foot and back makes him a strong contender for the crucial No.3 and gives India hope of survival on faster tracks. He gave the impression that he belonged. Kohli could be another batting great in the making. He played crucial knocks in the second test taking a leadership role, batting with flair at the same time possessing the technique to wait out difficult periods. In time these two could form the core of India’s middle order.

Sachin’s career and the life of a star have not been very different. 1980-93, he was the Protostar sizzling hot, yet highly volatile. 1994-2010 was the Main Sequence when he shone consistently and bright. The last two years he has been the Red Giant, surpassing every batting record but losing some of the sizzle of the past. His recent performances makes us wonder has he reached Planetary Nebula, where the star runs out of gas. Well if that’s true I would say, be prepared for a Supernova, as this star ain’t dying quietly. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

India's aging leadership

2011, a team that was touted to be one of the greatest Indian cricket had ever seen, fresh from a World Cup win, toured Australia only to be shockingly pounded into submission by an inexperienced line up. Four cricketing legends idolized and worshipped taking frequent bathroom breaks and horribly out of shape, brought the disillusioned fans crashing down to a reality that many were unwilling to face up to. History is replete with examples of stars overstaying their welcome, only to slide into mediocracy, from Elvis to Mohammad Ali. Does India cling on to an aging leadership way past their prime?

The current Indian cabinet ministry exhibits strong resemblance to the fab four, only at twice their age. The average age of the cabinet is over 65 years, the oldest is the External Affairs minister at 80 followed by the Prime Minister who will join the octogenarian club this year. When we talk about a young vibrant India its in direct contrast to the people’s representatives.  3/4th of the cabinet is above the age of 60 and half over 70. With 65% of the population under 35 how do these leaders stay relevant?

This emanates from India’s tendency to idolize and deify their heroes and leaders for hundered of years. The tendency to cling on to an ageing leadership is not just with politicians and cricketers it extends to actors, musicians, poets and anyone with celebrity status. With the likes of Kushboo, Rajnikanth, Lata Mangeshkar,  Rabindranath Tagore, Abdul Kalam the list is endless. Some of these are stalwarts of the past but also demi gods to millions, immortals like the 330 million Hindu deities. The height of the obsession was when worshipping South Indian fans built a temple for Kushboo, a rather heavyset lead actress, who was best known for her voluptuous-hip shaking dance sequences.

A healthy leadership structure is one where there is periodic churn where young leaders replace the old, bringing with them fresh ideas and direction.  An aged risk-averse leadership will end up bottling a young energetic country, frustrating them. This was evident when scores of India’s youth took to the streets when Anna Hazare called for change; many of them had no clue about the Lokpal legislation, but were out there to vent some of the bottled tension.

A young country is dynamic, energetic and raring to go. They need the right avenues and tools to tap into these assets, where they can believe anything is possible and make it happen. They need leaders that radiate confidence and willing to make bold decisions. Sadly the current leaders and representatives of this great nation are quite the opposite. Manmohan Singh has provided tireless service to the country, but is barely audible when he addresses the nation, which itself is a rarity. In an age of hyper-communication a docile, non-communicative leadership is like a butler leading a hippie congregation.

Is the problem a reluctant youth or a stubborn incumbent. There are few like Amir Khan an actor trying to shed light on social challenges through his talk shows or Arvind Khejriwal an IRS officer turned activist. Arvind who won the Magsasay award carries on his stellar work creating greater transparency in India’s corrupt government. Will the many tiny sparks of brilliance trigger a leadership transition? Easier said than done, one must be willing to get their hands dirty to enter politics in India. The barriers are mountainous, the challenges range from deeply entrenched multi-generation dynasties to money power that few have access to. This leads to many attempting to change the system from the outside, but I’m afraid that’s like moving an elephant with a safety pin. 

India desperately needs a powerful movement for change, one that can break through powerful political and vested interests. At a time when the country seems to have lost direction and the desire to move forward, a young movement is imperative to address the critical leadership deficit.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What's beneath the Surface?

Article first published as What's beneath the Surface on Technorati
Microsoft after talking about the much hyped Windows 8 for over a year, which lead to speculation around how the PC World and the world of lighter compact tablet computers will intersect, has finally announced Surface. An apparently well designed Microsoft tablet PC with design intricacies that are widely published. However the most interesting pitch is that the Surface will not only be your bed time read but also your Ultrabook. So in other words unlike Android that has to play catchup with the AppStore the Windows 8 platform would support the around 4 million applications already available for the Windows platform. So in other words you can enjoy the power of the Adobe Creative suite, Microsoft Office and Outlook, that forces me to switch back to my Ultrabook, available on my tablet. This is a compelling value proposition. This not only eliminates the need for me to purchase apps for previously desktop applications but will allow me to use everything I already own for Windows. Further that puts an end to the endless porting converting and switching back and forth between the PC and the tablet. Finally the browsing experience in an iPad minus flash support sends me back scampering back to my PC. With IE10 this will not be a problem.

While I have heaped praises, here comes the fine print. Windows 8 has inherently built two views the Metro mode and the Desktop mode. The Metro mode which is the tablet interface with the tiled views is a distinctly different environment from the more classic Windows Desktop. So applications that were developed for your Windows PC will function in your desktop mode as against your Metro or tablet mode, and they don't seamlessly transition when you switch modes. So you do get the power of the desktop in your tablet but only in your good old Desktop world. For applications to run effectively in a tablet environment you will have to depend on the Microsoft app store, which I would hazard a guess is still in its fledgeling state. Further the keyboard which looked like an ultra cool add-on, is a necessity in the Windows 8 world.

So yes you can own one single device, but you don't eliminate the Desktop PC. You do make a big save by not having to buy a separate Ultrabook, but in Surface you actually have a cool-compact Ultrabook with tablet functionality. While you do get to use your existing desktop apps, you don't get to use them with the tablet interface, so back to shopping in the app store. Finally not sure everyone would enjoy working on a 10.4 inch Windows Ultrabook as against the 13 inch or larger variety. For e.g a creative designer will any day like to use the larger screen in their laptops rather than hunching over a tablet.

While Surface is far from perfect, to their credit Microsoft has taken us one step closer to bidding goodbye to the PCs. By virtue of having come out with a powerful product, they will keep Apple and other tablet manufacturers on their toes. Surface will certainly force manufacturers back to the drawing boards to solve the rather challenging problem of merging the longstanding PCs and revolutionary Tablets. While we all eagerly await the next wave of Tablets, it will still be a while before we say "RIP PC".

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The rise and fall of the number one test team

Looking at the last 3 decades of Indian test cricket, 80s was a year of resilience, 90s the nadir and 2000-2010 victorious. I don’t even want to second guess, what would 2010-20 look like, as it seems like a decade of clean sweeps. The Indian team has always been strong at home but as a touring side has had a history of capitulation.

India is the wealthiest cricket team in the world, they practically run ICC, have the greatest batsmen in international cricket, hold almost all batting records, access to the best coaches and coaching facilities. Name it, we got it. Yet India until 2000 had won 3 test matches out of 76 tour games, that’s a win probability of fewer than 4%. They had won just one series against England in 1986 for 20 years, not including a fledgling Sri Lanka in 93. Touring games were virtually over before they began; India was at best a boost for the home team, before a major tour. Out of form batsmen got back into form, bowlers bowled their career best spells and teams strolled to victories.

Towards the end of 90s India hit rock bottom with the match fixing scandals. India’s greatest cricketing son struggled to lead the team with the same success he enjoyed with the bat. With the turn of the millennium when everything was doom and gloom, in walked Sourav Ganguly. Unfairly cast aside after a one match opportunity in 1992, he came back roaring with a century on debut in 1996. It was a sign of a character with steely resolve, focus and one of the feistiest players cricket has seen. A team that lacked all three of Sourav’s virtues received the perfect tonic with his captaincy. Combined with John Wright’s perseverance and focus on getting the basics right, was a success formula like none other in the history of Indian cricket.

Between 2000 and 2010, India won 9 series out of 22 while touring abroad. This included wins against England, Pakistan, West Indies, Sri Lanka and New Zealand, four of them more than a handful in home conditions. But what was truly incredible for a country that won 3 matches in 20 years, won 23 matches while touring in 10 years. During this period India showed incredible resolve, belief and came back from virtually impossible positions to win. Unlike the 90s, when India usually went flat and let oppositions walk all over them, Sourav’s fire was the ideal fillip for flagging spirits. He was also not one to shy away from mind games and intimidation. He was in fact one step ahead of them when he made Steve Waugh wait for the toss before the match or did the now famous T-shirt act. The aggression brought adrenaline and intent, to what was a rather timid team.

If 2010 was a glorious decade in Indian cricket history. 2020 seems like a decade for 20-20. The IPL has virtually transformed cricket in India. Cricket was a sport played by half a billion Indians on dusty dirt tracks, but it was maybe a handful of batsmen in the playing eleven who made the big media contracts, the rest were impoverished struggling cricketers. IPL changed all of that, a six weeks extravaganza that saw new stars emerge and made many more millionaires. All of a sudden all batsmen were practicing lap sweeps off fast bowlers, right-handers played left handed and helicopter shots. Dravid who is by far a thoroughbred technician, was playing scoops across the line and over the covers, showing the new crop of talent the future of cricket.

The fab-four got an extended lease, while BCCI bought time, playing merry go round tours with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. During this time the selectors tried Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Murali Vijay, Virat Kohli and Abhinav Mukund. All bright talents in the shorter swashbuckling form, but completely lacked the technique for sterner tests, where bowlers were not push over dummies. An ageing fab four stood behind numbers taller than their shrinking forms, from years of carrying the burden of a billion cricket-crazy fans and insane tour schedules. An appropriate glorious parting gift would have been the world cup, but who will take their place? All of a sudden Indian test batsmen are a scarce commodity as coaching manuals were burnt. Some in fact predicted the demise of a tradition over a 100 years old, as the popular lucrative format seemed to replace the old. Fortunately cricket lies in more reliable hands. Only time will tell if an increasingly corporate BCCI may have killed the golden goose, as they are left with an average crop of inexperienced test cricketers and extremely irate fans after watching their country’s pride and glory getting publicly flogged. But something tells me we wouldn’t have to wait very long.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Virtual Transformation

Article first published as The Virtual Transformation on Technorati

In August 1995, Microsoft launched Windows 95 in an attempt to capture their founder's audacious dream of having a computer running Windows on every desktop in the world. But in a world with an insatiable appetite for communication the vision statements have dramatically changed. Everyone is leaving their desktops behind and moving into the cloud and soon reaching for the stars. In an increasingly mobile world instant gratification is top order.

Bye bye PCs

Three global behemoths, Apple, Google and Microsoft are locked in a battle for supremacy, and there are the outliers, Amazon and RIM. One a bold maverick and the latter was once a visionary in the enterprise world, now fast disappearing into the background . While Microsoft still maintains a stranglehold on the PC marketshare Google and Apple have gone mobile and flipped the game on Microsoft. Over the last few years PC sales has diminished, as we speak there are more smart mobile devices (smart phones and tablets) sold than PCs. IBM sold their, once priced PC business to the Chinese firm Lenovo. HP is struggling to hive off it's PC business, in an attemptt to move into high value solutions and services. This is a testament to the fact that the era of the PC will soon be behind us. This is made possible through increasingly shrinking chipsets and cloud based services. While device footprint are increasingly portable, we are witnessing convergence, now no one carries an mp3 player, phone, and a camera, they just carry their smart phone instead.

Devices to services

In a fast evolving world and market place nobody has the time to marvel at product spec sheets, everybody is interested in the end service. In other words, what's in it for me? Hardware manufacturers no longer just publish technical specifications, instead feature apps and their services. So what sells now is Nokia's navigation services, Amazon Kindles's books online, iTunes music or YouTube's video channels and the device is merely a means to an end. This is increasingly driving the cost of the hardware down, as seen with the launch of the Kindle Fire. The device that runs the largest app store indirectly delivers the widest range of services. Apple sits pretty on top with 414,852 apps since its launch in 2007, while Google is fast catching up with 237,199 apps in the last 3 years.

Your avatar in a virtual world

Moving away from the physical world is a direct result of this transformative communication age. You no longer need to carry your wallet, just flash your phone to pay your check, Singapore is the third Asian country to adopt NFC for payments in a large scale after Japan and Korea. For many, shops are just viewing galleries, they try out new clothes and swipe the barcode to purchase it cheaper online. Track the delivery status, pay your bills, drop off a check, hail a cab, check-in to a flight everything from your phone. You can literally rule the world from the palm of your hands. Owe your friend money just bump your phones to transfer money. The line between the physical world and the virtual is fast blurring. No more cash or credit cards just a smart guy with a smart card in a smart phone.

Go east, get young and get rich

The new markets are rapidly moving east as the average age of the rest of the world is fast rising and the west is struggling to revive growth. China's median age is 35 and India's around 29, this means more than 25% of the world's population are under the age of 40. The youth in these regions are not going to stand in long queues to do business, they are going to do it online and will want it at a fraction of the cost. These are low cost economies where it's all about volume. India and China alone constitute over 1.6 billion mobile subscribers. Going mobile here reduces cost of services and increases reach to tap into a fast emerging middle class and remote corners where modern services remains remote. India just launched a 35$ tablet, this will expectedly, further kill PC sales in the region and will soon make India one of the largest internet markets. So while western economies are having to deal with an aging population the new markets are young and eager to absorb new technologies.

Competing with Free

Ever since Gillete offered shaving sticks for free while selling razors, we have inadvertently entered the age of free. We are seeing innovative pricing strategies and bundled services offering, banks provide free money transfer and make money off float, TV channels offer free online viewing as against paying cable charges. This is further made possible by the cost of setting up business on the internet coming down, dramatically reducing entry barriers. News channels have to compete with bloggers and the social media where people are experiencing instant news that is fast and free. So companies now have to build innovative strategies to monetize free.

Embrace the change

It is important to embrace this change and adapt to the new strategies. Business relying on online channels for new innovative services, is not another hype like the dotcom bubble, this is a paradigm shift. The shift is to value focused services, innovative pricing strategy with a constant downward pressure on costs, products and services that constantly evolve, supported by a strong technology vision and strategy. In short in the future there will be very few services that rely purely on a physical delivery channels. The industries most affected by this change are Entertainment, Media, Financial Services and Retail.

Invest in the right technologies

When the entire world is gravitating towards mobiles and the cloud, it makes no sense to persist with desktop and other physical services. Companies that are aggressively investing on their internet platforms have to make sure it's tablet ready and backed by mobile services capabilities. This is a significant change to technology roadmaps. Volumes and frequency of hits will increase, driving up traffic, therefore will require the supporting infrastructure, both in terms of availability and capacity. Mobile services operate on different technologies, this will mandate robust services based (SOA) platforms capable of supporting multiple delivery channels or end points that include PCs, tablets and smart phones.

Rapid innovation with shorter product life cycles

A rapidly evolving product and services portfolio is much needed where entry cost with business going online have come down. Innovation in organizations cannot be confined to the R&D teams. Finally being able to convert new bright ideas into reality and doing it quick is the need of the hour. This is not possible unless business is supported with open innovation platforms, agile IT and business processes Product release cycles over the years have consistently reduced from years to months to weeks. Information sharing is simplified outside the enterprise and users are able to easily share rich content and communicate with ease. There is a significant step down when employees step into enterprises that are struggling to catch up. New apps are launched every day in the app stores and it is frustrating to work with a lumbering IT function that takes weeks to even provide a solution. IT and business need to transform themselves into light weight nimble teams that can provide quick turn around times and freely innovate.

Now or never

As the online consumer base grows, the physical paper based services will eventually disappear, further increasing the need for automation, dramatically shrinking turn around times and SLAs ,eventually transforming current business operating parameters. Organizations that struggle to adapt are more likely to fail in this new unforgiving world of business.

While there is a lot of debate on the future technology landscape, some of which is denial, some as a result of the new technologies being transitionary.In my mind the direction is clear, there have been some fundamental changes in the way business is done, the way technology impacts business and there is significant advantage in investing ahead of the curve.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Digital embrace

Just as the world seems like this increasingly wired network of communities that constantly feels the need to stay in touch, are we in the process actually loosing touch? I don't find it unimaginable that soon mobile phones will be confined to the dusty corners of the nostalgia shops and people will never speak face to face. Everyone will only speak to their smart phones or whoever is in it. "Hey let's Hang Out at the Coffee Shop" would not mean meeting at a coffee shop but a Google plus group video conference during coffee breaks.

There was a time when people just received a morning paper, now I'm not sure what to read, Times of India, Straight Times, WSJ or a mix of everything on Flipboard or Evri. While I love the Flipboard magazine interface, I also love Evri's organization by topic of interest. Even better just read what every body is reading by tuning into your Twitter channel. We are so spoilt for choice on this information crazy highway you're just not sure where to exit. Does it really matter if I knew Colnel Gadaffi's whereabouts by the minute or his birthday even? Speaking of which, I rarely call friends on their birthdays, and remembering them is not so special anymore, thanks to Facebook reminders. I have so many friends on my Facebook I don't know most of them.

All of this just says one thing the virtual world has helped us go viral, not without infecting us in the process. Human beings are highly evolved species, our brain senses everything from body temperature, to texture and the subtlest of body languages. It will take a digital dodo to assume that a smiley can evoke the same human response as a smile. Communication advances has undoubtedly brought the world together, yet we run this risk of becoming transactional. It's so much easier to defraud, be ruthless in business or ignore a friend, as the person is just a digital rendering. You don't really know the person, because you never felt that handshake or warm embrace.

A story for bed time is a personalized children's book reading software. You can record yourself reading the book and your children can launch their favorite bed time stories, to hear and see you read them. An up in the air salesman's dream, a one time setup for a life time of guilt free cocktail parties and business travel. But maybe your children will never think of Noddy as that lovable little boy, but a funny kid in a car, as they never felt that good night kiss and your warm embrace. I'm sure as we speak someone is solving that with an iPad app, but you must realize, not everything is solved with a digital embrace.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Operationalizing Enterprise Ecosystems

Article first published as Operationalizing Enterprise Ecosystems on Technorati (PCX5DZB6CX25).

In the times of F.W. Taylor, focus of enterprise process was on repeatability and predictability and less on adaptability and agility. A hundred years later automation is pushing the monotonous functions to computer systems, using tools like self service solutions and straight through processing. As enterprises mature the role of the desk clerk who will come into work and do the same job day in and day out will be marginalized. Every employee will be empowered with the power to think, plan and execute in the new innovative enterprise.

The biggest challenge in being the innovative enterprise is in transitioning from conventional organization and systems to one that enables mass scale innovation, building the ability to tap into many little idea bubbles and aggregating them into new product or services that impact change in the way business gets done. My belief is this can be a achieved by establishing the right frameworks and tools or an Enterprise Ecosystems.

While this is the future, it is important to understand where organizations stand today and the direction in which they are evolving and why we are in a much better place to make that transition today than ever before.

Enterprise evolution

Enterprise Strategy

Enterprise strategy is conventionally driven top down, where the board decides the strategic direction, the annual and quarterly targets. The rest of the employees are expected to pretty much expand on the vision and execute. While this model has served the interests of rich boards and some overpaid CEOs does it really do justice to the true growth potential of an enterprise?

Ownership Structure

There was a time when organizations were started and owned by a few wealthy investors pooling their resources to start a company. As scale increased companies were restricted by the availability of capital. That changed with the advent of organized institutional finance and public capital markets. Ownership could rest in the hands of hundreds of thousands of investors driving up the scale of enterprise to heights never imagined before.

Management Control

Conventional enterprises depended on a centralized command and control model where a small executive team that decided the fate of thousands of employees. Systems were designed to support a centralized chain of command and a pyramid style organization, with management and control that rested in the hands of few, restricting growth and innovation. As organizations spread across multiple geographies and became today’s mammoth, global enterprise, product lines and services had to be adapted to the culture, tastes and preferences of the local markets. Therefore control shifted to regional and countrywide command centers and thereby broadened the span of control and adaptability of the organization.

Innovation in most organizations was driven by R&D teams which was capital intensive and was restricted to the brightest minds in the world. This drove the thought that all product development is capital and resource intensive hence had to be centrally managed. With the internet and open source revolution we learnt that products can be loosely managed and allowed to evolve naturally, through mass innovation. Linux being the first of many successful open source products to prove products can be developed with no R&D teams and no executive boards defining go to market strategies or goals. It was the form of free enterprise that proved one does not need the restrictive corporate structures to successfully develop products.

If as in Fig 1.1, 80% of your organization was execution focused, 20% was ensuring goals set by the top 0.1-0.5% were met; the organization is wasting at least 80-90% of its intellectual potential. As the opportunities to innovate and generate value drops in the lower levels of the pyramid. This leads to typical idea bubble evaporation, where employees are forced to suppress ideas, either because they are so low down in the hierarchy to be heard or their job description doesn’t enable them to step out of bounds. Over time the lost bubbles cost organizations in terms of lost opportunities and employees who leave with their ideas to start off on their own or even worse hand it over to competition. The challenge can be addressed by creating the right Enterprise Ecosystems, a system that captures, develops and convert ideas into real world solutions.

A one hit wonder or sustained innovation

In the book The Element the author mentions an interesting anecdote where George Harrison one day got together with Bob Dylan and group of like minded musicians in a jamming session. What was a casual get together of music's greats resulted in Handle with Care which turned out to be Harrison’s greatest song in the post Beatles era. Is innovation truly a random event? Do we all have a Dylan or a Harrison in us? The answer in my mind varies based on what you set out to do. Do you want to be a one hit wonder or whether you want to create a system that consistently delivers? In an ideal world George Harrison and Bob Dylan should have got together and started one of the greatest rock bands after their album Traveling Wilburys but that never happened. That’s because what got them together did not keep them together. Traveling Wilburys was like an affair or a fling and had all the flair and charms of one. Innovation in the enterprise is not a fling; it’s about creating a sustainable and a constantly innovating enterprise.

The time is ripe for an innovation culture
Corporations ownership structures are decentralized, control is spread across the levels of the organization in flatter organization structures. The open source programs of the world have established that innovation is not restricted to exclusive product development teams and can be broad based. This proves the power of plenty. Yet it is necessary to have the mechanism to piece together a framework that can identify the right ideas and convert them into viable solutions in an enterprise.

Enterprise ecosystems

An ecosystem is alive, dynamic, constantly evolving, nourishes growth and is supported by a strong community. Enterprise ecosystems create the internal mechanism for their employees to create new ideas and for like minded people to collaborate and build on it to the point where it can become a solution that justifies further investments. The idea can be a product, service, or even a new process. The ecosystem acts as a system that enables the identification, evolution and formalization of an idea into an offering. Further it is a culmination of tools that simplify collaboration, processes and systems that incubate ideas across the enterprise.

Enterprise Ecosystems and the innovation lifecycle

Idea Generation

Idea generation can be a random lightbulb moment or as a result of more deliberate thought which may arise due to gaps in services or product offering. Typically when ideas emerge people don't think of penning it down or even sharing it and building on it. It is necessary to create the necessary tools to capture ideas, promote a knowledge sharing culture and define the reward mechanism to effectively promote idea sharing. This is to ensure every light bulb moment is captured and given the opportunity to grow into a future offering and does not turn into another lost bubble. The idea generation systems offered might include:
  • An innovation portal that facilitate idea capture via idea blogs, discussions and posts

  • An Innovation Council that monitors these programs and identifies those ideas that demonstrate value for further investments
  • Feedback loop
    The web and the social media tools generate a lot of chatter. Several organizations have invested heavily in internal social media tools, but often fail to also build the feedback channel. A channel that can sift through the chatter and pick up relevant information and piece it together to form meaningful intelligence. Therefore when the enterprise sets up a mass innovation systems, there must also be the mechanism to identify the right ideas. The Innovation Council supported by the necessary tools will play a pivotal role in whetting these thought bubbles and identifying the diamond in the rough.

    Idea project development

    An idea to be converted into a final solution will have to be designed, developed and tested. It further requires feasibility studies, market research and commercial evaluation to be converted into an offering. So as ideas bubble up via the feedback channel a project group is setup to further build on it and test it. The important element here is time and resources. Just as in the open source world, not everybody quits their day job, here also the idea is developed using a team of volunteers who truly believe in their idea. The team will have to be supported with the necessary management and collaboration tools to manage their project. It must be developed under the umbrella of an Innovation Council, to ensure that the focus is maintained and the necessary expertise is available. The initial beta tests can be conducted within the organization's volunteer groups. The end outcome will be a solution design, feasibility study, a beta tested product or service and a business case.

    Create new offeringOnce the offering is adequately flushed out, feasibility study is complete and business case is established the Innovation Council will carry out the first level evaluation of the idea. Evaluation would examine the quality of product or service design, it's feasibility, impact to existing product or service lines, value proposition, market preparedness, targeted consumers, alignment to organization strategy, competitive positioning, investment requirement and commercial viability. On passing the litmus test the Innovation Council will represent the idea to the executive teams that will make the final decision on the new offering. Once the executive teams approve the service or product offering, the idea is passed on to the new product or service transition function. From here on it becomes part of the organization's process for a new product rollout, spearheaded by the innovation team.

    Organization considerations for success

    Establishing the Innovation Council

    The Innovation Council will have to be represented by the various functions of the organization. It must be a group of experts with sufficient industry exposure and understanding of the organization's various functions. The council must be able to invest sufficient time and effort in identifying the ideas for further funding, whetting the various offerings presented, providing the necessary expertise and governance to the innovation program. This is a critical function and group that must have an open innovation mindset, this is pivotal to the success of the entire innovation program.

    Reward Mechanism
    When it comes to the open source communities, the driver is to build open products outside the mould of the corporate world. The ideals here is for a cause that is sometimes and not always non-profit. But this may not work in an enterprise context, so the organization must structure a reward mechanism, which has to be adequate to motivate active participation. The rewards could range from a one time pay off to royalty sharing with the employees and leadership roles in the new product or service lines.

    Innovation cultureWhile a sizable reward is motivation for an innovator but the organization must have an innovation culture.

  • Not suited to a centralized command and control organization setup, requires a democratic leadership structure that empowers their employees

  • Employees hired must have a creative bend of mind and the aptitude to innovate

  • Organizations that largely hire low cost and low skilled resources who lack the skills to design and develop products or services may not deliver sufficient value for such setups

  • Must be supported by the internal groups for knowledge sharing, closed organizations where there isn't an active community for sharing and exchanging ideas will struggle to innovate

  • External programs, training and entrepreneurship programs to grow the innovation culture will nurture the talent pool and egg them on to innovate

  • Products that have very long gestation, that requires several years of specialized research may not be candidates for mass innovation
  • In a world where information dissemination is faster and simpler than ever before and rate of change is rapid, where fortunes are made and lost in quarterly cycles, innovation is critical to thrive. The role of employees is no longer to turn up in factory lines and execute mindlessly but to create value and innovate. The challenge is to turn the tables on the 80:20 rule of the old and increasingly provide employees the opportunity to move up the value chain. Enable them to assume leadership roles unhindered by stringent organization hierarchies and a central command imposed. While doing so it's essential to empower employees with the tools and support systems that nurture ideas and enable them to evolve into product or service offering. In order to create the new innovative enterprise, it requires sustained innovation, yet the freedom to mushroom from any corner. The overarching framework that enables the enterprise to evolve organically and unobstructed is the Enterprise Ecosystem.


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