Category Archives: Innovation

It’s a New Year – is the world ready … Enterprise 2.0

Dubbed Web 2.0, this revolution in computing has shifted the face of software from a logical, linear, and introverted science to an expressive, graphical and social art. New designers of web sites, unschooled in traditional software techniques, are nonetheless able to create software that scales to millions of users and billions of objects of information and still meld those users into an artistically aware community. The next generation of enterprise employees who started using the internet in their early teens have only known this evolving culture of free and creative development of the internet and now demand better of the enterprise software that they meet. Older employees also know that that the software that they use on a day to day basis can be better. Enterprise 2.0 seeks to emulate the success of Web 2.0 in the creation of new software for the enterprise.

Social Computing

The shift of computing power from business logic and calculation to socialization and people-orientation has been dubbed by some as Social Computing. The term Social Computing has been used interchangeably with Enterprise 2.0 or Enterprise Social Applications, however, IBM and Microsoft have created Social Computing research centers and Forrester has started to use the term in describing next generation enterprise collaboration. Social Computing is the use of technology to support sharing of information and enabling collaboration through social networks and to tap into the value of the “Wisdom of Crowds”, a concept made famous by James Surowiecki in 2004 to explain how many people are smarter than individual experts. Social Computing exploits software oriented toward people and Social Networks, the extended relationships of individuals, to connect to more people and access the Wisdom of Crowds.

To tap into the wisdom and awareness of social networks and empower people to collaborate at any time or place, Social Computing platforms need the following capabilities:

  • People – Support information about people, their preferred communications, their relationships and affiliations, since social networking is all about people rather than just systems, data and objects. The more information available about other users, the more likely they can be found as a source of knowledge.
  • Context of Networks – Social networks organized around projects, teams and departments provide the context of work and relevance of information as it spreads from creation to the people that need that information. Social networks, especially networks extended beyond the enterprise, provide the greatest differentiation of social computing from previous generations of collaboration.
  • Social Collaboration – Provide an environment where people can share ideas, contribute knowledge and solve problems in creative, unstructured socialization as opposed to rigorous workflows that are required for control of information. Next generation tools use techniques developed by Web 2.0, particularly those tools that empower social knowledge, such as social tagging, integration of communication and awareness of changes in social networks.
  • Content as a Service – Content is the container of knowledge and information and is core to the socialisation of information. Content needs to be accessible everywhere, not just in large, monolithic applications. Content capabilities need to be accessible as reusable service components. Social computing can happen inside the enterprise or outside and a channel can be a web site, web application, mobile device or even external web platforms such as Facebook or Google applications. Mashups can occur inside the enterprise or outside and the channel will require content as a service that can securely be accessed wherever it is needed or wherever it is contributed.
  • People-centric Tools – As Web 2.0 has spread new paradigms of user interaction, the consumerization of software has created expectations that enterprise software becomes easier and empowers user to contribute, correct and classify content and information within the context of social networks. AJAX and next generation rich internet application interfaces such as Adobe Flex will provide users with a much richer, more intuitive user experience and the ability to scan much more social knowledge to find ideas and solutions. These tools should themselves be componentized and accessible as a service so that they may be mashed up with other sources of social knowledge.

This does not mean that the need for traditional enterprise content technologies such as document and records management goes away. They are still repositories of the truth and verifiable information and thus play an important role in sharing knowledge within social networks. However, these traditional technologies lack the usability, empowerment, and breadth of reach that Web 2.0 sites provide. They lack the collaborative nature that invites in people without barriers and restrictions to contribute to the sharing of knowledge and information. Web content management for creating a richer Web 2.0-style user interface becomes even more important to this collaboration to provide a compelling face to the interaction and to simplify the access and navigation of shared information. For Enterprise Content Management to be part of this change it needs to addresses the requirements of Social Applications.

Use of Social Computing

The balance is shifting from contained and controlled companies to engaged and empowered collaborative enterprises driven by Web 2.0-inspired social computing. At the center of the shift from old models of computing in the enterprise to new social models are companies that are inspired to innovate or to engage more with their customers. This includes companies not just using their internet or intranet web sites, but engaging in social networking channels such as Yahoo, Google, YouTube, Facebook and MySpace. Those using social computing are interested in engaging people, such as customers, employees or partners. They are using new people-centric tools and facilitate creating or extending existing social networks.

All major ECM vendors are all planning their Social Computing efforts and to a large extent are being dragged in this direction by their more forward-looking customers. Some of our customers that I work with are seeing the value of Social Computing thru:

  • Closer connections with the customer  organisations that particularly address a younger demographic must engage their customers as part of both the marketing process as well as the development of new products. For example, games and film companies that engage their viewers in plot and scene development do much better than those that keep everything under wraps until the game or film is ready.
  • Enterprises hiring a new generation of knowledge workers who grew up on the internet must provide tools as empowering as those available from Web 2.0. Turning these tools off forces these workers to seek employment elsewhere and forcing them to use tools that do not meet their expectations of usability and engagement.
  • Financial Services firms are leading the shift in usage of these technologies. Financial Services have always been innovators in developing new technologies and investing in providing better service for their clients. Speed in innovation in these services becomes a major competitive advantage where churn of clients can be very high in turbulent times. Internally, competition for talent is intense and providing better support is important for attracting and retaining employees. In particular, young and ambitious brokers and managers are more likely to be sociable themselves and seek out Social Computing inside and outside the enterprise.
  • Government and Non-Profit organisations that provide services and citizen feedback online find increasing their IT budgets much easier than those that merely arbitrated by a front-line service. It is now inconceivable for a politician to run for office without an extended internet presence such as Facebook or YouTube (think about the last Australian election).
  • Enterprises that have faster cycles of product innovation, especially high tech, are looking to their customers and partners to participate in the development of new products and services. In previous generations, the field acted as a filtering mechanism of new customer requirements and ideas. However, today technology can provide a frictionless way of getting the entire enterprise to exchange ideas and improvements with the customer communities.

The Unique World Innovation process and RecordPoint get mentioned in BRW

The Unique World – innovation process (see previous posts) and the new product I’m currently working on get mentioned in BRW – check it out . More details on RecordPoint in the coming days watch this space…

Part 3 – The Innovation Process at Unique World – Creating a Culture of Innovation at Unique World

Creating and encouraging an environment where people feel that new ideas are welcome and wanted is crucial to Unique World’s innovation process. We know that Innovation thrives in a culture that is not afraid of taking risks, promotes experimentation and rewards off the wall thinking.

In order to have innovation accepted throughout Unique World we have tried to encourage everyone to take part in it. We also acknowledge that it needs to be a continual process that is itself tweaked and reviewed at regular intervals.

At Unique World we have not limited the innovation process to only be looking at opportunities that we can take to market. But the process is also free to drive improvements in core business processes or to suggest way to make us do something differently (and hopefully better). A great resource I stumbled across recently was the innovation check list written by Joanne Pimlott, Founding Director of the Education Centre for Innovation and Commercialisation and Academic Director of the Master of Entrepreneurship at The University of Adelaide. Innovation checklist: making innovation affordable and do-able

  • Do you take time to identify training needs for current and future needs?
  • What publications, people, events and so on do you need to access?
  • What incentives will you provide for people to undertake training to maintain and update their knowledge and skills?
  • Are ideas and suggestions actively sought by management? What happens to those ideas and suggestions? (Follow up is essential)
  • What motivates your people to be creative, experimental (where appropriate) and innovative in their thinking?
  • Do you understand what motivates each individual in your business? (What assumptions do you make in this area?)
  • Is innovation likely to occur because of or in spite of your business culture, structure and management style?
  • How readily do people in your workplace accept change?
  • Does your business have a risk management strategy?

Joanne Pimlott

It is certainly my view that virtually any SME should be able to follow Joanne’s simple checklist and start to implement simple and affordable innovation programs quite quickly. Certainly the Unique World experence so far is that it can really change the way you think and run your business.

Part 2 – The innovation Process at Unique World – Innovation Leadership

Innovation requires strong leadership. If you do not want innovation to be haphazard, then you need to make the strategic decision to manage for innovation.

Managing for innovation requires strategic decisions about where to focus attention and time. While large businesses have the resources for formal strategic management, many small to medium business do not.

Even at Unique World, we have fallen into the trap of feeling we are too busy meeting the day-to-day challenges of operating the current core business to spend time developing and nourishing innovation. But we know that innovation is one of the corner stone’s of Unique World’s future and will have a profound impact on Unique World today and tomorrow.

In order for innovation to be effective it must be encouraged, innovation is often all about leading by example. Luckily Unique World’s CEO Eddie Geller has take an interest in day-to-day innovation activities since day one of starting Unique World, and the formalisation of an Innovation process is just another stage in the maturity of the business that he and Elon Aizenstros started over eight years ago.

In thinking about leadership in the innovation sphere I am often, draw to the writings of Peter Drucker ‘the expert’ in innovation processes and thinking in my view:

Drucker says in Innovation and Entrepreneurship (1993):

  •  An innovation, to be effective, has to be simple and it has to be focused. It should only do one thing, otherwise it can confuse your staff, customers and suppliers.
  •  Effective innovations start small. They are not grandiose. They try to do one specific thing.
  •  A successful innovation aims at market and business leadership. It does not aim necessarily at becoming eventually a ‘big business’; in fact, no one can foretell whether a given innovation will end up as a big business or modest achievement. But if an innovation does not aim at leadership from the beginning, it is unlikely to be innovative enough, and therefore unlikely to be capable of establishing itself.

The third and finial part of this entry along soon … 

The Innovation Process at Unique World – Part 1

Managing innovation at an SME like Unique World is really all about people management. People, not technology, are the source of the ideas that can become opportunities. People, not organisations, act on business concepts.

Our approach at Unique World is still in its formative stages, but in essence, it is about taking new ideas and allowing them to be reviewed and either approved, tweaked or rejected by a representative committee of our people.

Once the idea’s have passed thru the committee stage they are taken to the executive of our business who ultimately decides if the idea has a robust enough business case and alignment with our core business and strategy to merit real capital investment. Or if the idea should be put on hold pending further time, information or consideration.

Luckily, Unique World already has many of the attributes an SME needs in order to allow innovation to flourish:

  • An open culture that responds to staff, customers and suppliers; and
  • We know that Innovation requires creativity and creativity requires time.

Whilst we are still working out some of the logistics associated with taking a consulting based organisation (where time equals billing) to one where the appropriate levels of an individual’s ‘billable’ time is allocated to creativity. We are already seeing changes in behaviour of both management and staff in how they are able to create time for that creativity to occur.

Tim Mazzarol, Director of the Centre of Entrepreneurial Management and Innovation in Western Australia, advises: ‘Contemporary innovation management requires the active participation of all employees with adequate rewards and recognition of such behaviour. Management plays a key role in this process, motivating employees to seek innovative solutions and identifying opportunities for enhanced innovation via interactions with the customer. It is important for organisations to build innovative management systems able to assist with the facilitation of knowledge sharing and commercialisation’.

As Tim points out innovation is more than just the commercialisation of idea’s – it is a holistic management system, that is able to facilitate knowledge sharing, customer/ client and partner interactions as well as commercialisation. At Unique World, we are not quite at this level of maturity but I can see a day where we will be.

Part 2 in a few days time, got any comments or questions about our process – send em thru…

Focus on Innovation

Of late I’ve been getting a lot of question about my role at Unique World as Head of Innovation? Many customers, partners and even internal staff are rather confused by the title and don’t understand the purpose and effect of innovation on the marketplace or the Unique World business as a whole.So what is the purpose of a Head of Innovation in a smaller enterprise like Unique World, well our executive and board have identified innovation as one of the key paths to fuel geometric growth in our business. And have decided to use Innovation to drive change in our offering to our clients and the internal team (both within our consulting services and software products).

It’s my role to work with all parts of the internal business and our strategic partners and customers to generate and govern innovation. Beyond just the governance it’s also my role to build an innovation culture and as a direct result the wanting to do thing smarter through innovation.Russell Reynols and associates (who are regarded as leaders in this arena) define the skills needed for the role as such:

Innovative Thinking: This person is known as a visionary and can demonstrate that he or she has predicted and acted on consumer/customer/client trends, getting others to believe and follow. He or she is known as a creative thinker who is willing to challenge the status quo but also learns from the past. He or she uses fact-based analyses but is not paralyzed by too much data (or not enough). This person is known for taking a well-reasoned stand and is decisive in terms of moving forward on a proposal.

Strong Business Acumen: The innovation leader has developed new businesses, products or services with the bottom line in mind. He or she has a record of sound fiscal management and has strong analytical capabilities. He or she has a balanced approach to revenue generation, operating cost management and bottom-line delivery.

Strategic Marketing Acumen: This person has the ability to develop and implement a marketing plan, driving actions from a comprehensive understanding of customer and consumer needs, then providing concise direction to the organization to develop profitable solutions. Underpinning this is a record of systematic and analytical approaches toward situation analysis evaluation and the development of specific programs that maintain a perspective on long-term goals while attaining short-term objectives.

Deal/Alliance/Relationship Skills: This person has not been constrained by resource limitations and can economically determine “buy/rent” decisions. He or she has forged significant business partnerships through strategic alliances, joint ventures or other forms that are mutually beneficial. He or she has a strategic network that can be leveraged.

Global Perspective: The innovation leader has the ability to quickly envision or grasp ideas found in the global and local marketplace. Acting with a sense of urgency, this person demonstrates a predisposition toward action, while evaluating programs in a small market environment with low economic risk.

Communication Skills: Finally, he or she must be a keen listener, be perceived as open minded and have strong interpersonal skills so that the necessary alliances with internal and external groups can be forged and developed quickly. This person must be comfortable interacting both formally and informally with senior executives and communicating openly and equitably with peers and subordinates throughout the organization.

I know I have not yet developed all of these skills, but I am keen to develop them quickly so I can be effective as possible in the role. It certainly is very exciting.In my next post I’m going to let you in on what the innovation processes has been cooking up at Unique World and how we’ve started to innovate within our core business.