Tactical Innovation: What Makes a Great Innovator?

Daniel Maycock is one of Slalom's acknowledged thought leaders in the realm of new and emerging technology.

Daniel Maycock is one of Slalom’s acknowledged thought leaders in the realm of new and emerging technology.

Part of the work I’ve been doing this year is gathering up the last several conversations I’ve had over the course of being involved in a number of mobile strategy engagements at various Fortune 500 companies around the US. Mobile strategy has been on the forefront of many companies’ agendas as emerging technologies are transforming the way business is done, so it’s not uncommon for forward-looking people at a company to be engaged in conversations about innovating with mobile.

Typically the person put in charge of mobile is someone that’s been there a while, though it could also be a brand-new employee who is just getting up to speed. Regardless, the people that typically champion mobile are A) executives that recognize mobile’s importance, have a deep understanding of the company’s IT culture, and have some level of tenure with the CIO to move a mobile initiative forward, and B) those that report to those executives that have the passion and drive to learn mobile inside and out, and then help promote it throughout the enterprise.

Both types of employees typically know that it will be difficult to foray through enterprise politics, approvals, and individuals. These mobile champions must have an ability to build relationships and help with user adoption from the get-go. They must immediately establish credibility to instill confidence among employees and lead direction, or else others will feel they have just as much expertise and will forge their own paths.

I’m brought in as a consultant because I can do both of those things, helping augment the staff at the client’s company to make it happen. But whether I’m there or not, it’s not easy seeding a new technology along with all the best practices and governance elements that come with it to make sure it’s rolled out efficiently and responsibly. There’s a host of challenges—people often have their own perspectives on how things should go, there’s conflicting budget requests, etc.—and technology typically gets adopted slowly. These are just some of the barriers that an organization will face when trying to push a new technology out to the business.

Yet, over time, the technology does become seeded and eventually gets adopted. It’ll happen at some companies faster than others, but it’ll happen because in the back of everyone’s mind, change has to occur for the business to stay competitive. Consultants like myself help speed things up, because we’ve done it numerous times elsewhere. Much like installing carpet: you could learn to do it yourself, but it’s not cost-feasible if you’re only going to install carpet once every 5-10 years vs. someone that does it day in and day out.

The people I’ve met that champion mobile technology are true innovators. Innovation is difficult and sometimes painful; it’s not fun to shake things up and help people believe that they’ll be in worse shape if they don’t listen to you. These mobile champions are innovators because they understand the current climate and know what needs to change and how to make it happen, along with the benefits therein.

More important, though, they have the gusto and motivation to push change forward regardless of the obstacles. Most frequently the term “innovator” is attributed to those that invent new ways of doing things or help shape/design a new type of product or service. Though they may be innovators, they will leave at the end of the day and who’s left in the company is now tasked with other types of innovation—initiating brainstorming sessions and getting blueprints implemented and adopted. This requires years of relationship building, execution and trust, selfless service, and a burning passion for helping one’s company be better. Innovation, in its simplest definition, means “a new method, idea, product, etc.” It represents newness. It varies from invention, though, in that it’s translating an idea or invention into a good service or product that creates value for which someone will pay money.

An innovation isn’t necessarily something created from scratch, but rather a new interpretation of what’s been created along with different ideas about how to apply it. The conception of the idea is the fun part, but it’s the implementation of that idea that’s so tricky. Seeing innovators is tricky, because they’re lodged deep inside organizations or governments or corporations, taking those inspirational ideas and creations and finding ways to apply them to their environments. More important, they’re spending the time and effort to grease the wheels and make sure there’s a compatible and acceptable environment for an innovation to thrive.

I believe that innovation often happens in the middle, from doers that connect the dots and drive meaningful change. It’s not easy to be a doer; it’s not easy to connect dots (especially when it’s just a side job). Slalom is a company that doesn’t like spending hours on theory, because clients don’t like paying for hypotheticals or big brains if it doesn’t translate into actual work, and they should expect that every dollar spent on a consultant produces work at a greater rate than they could have accomplished on their own. With that said, there still needs to be thinking applied to new problems, because if all we did was solve problems the way they’ve always been solved, then we’d be delivering commoditized solutions with the lowest-cost vendors performing work at a typical pace.

At Slalom, we apply innovation in the most tactical way possible, infusing it into the work we’re doing, the conversations we’re having, and the billable engagements we’re executing. My goal with this blog series is to talk about some of those examples, as well as some of the practical ways Slalom demonstrates innovation along the way. The goal is to offer suggestions about how to look at innovation in a new way, so that you as a client, partner, or employee might consider how you can embrace new thinking to improve the way you do business, and invest in new ideas in an intelligent, tangible way.

Tech Trends for 2013

Daniel Maycock is one of Slalom’s acknowledged thought leaders in the realm of new and emerging technology.

There were many significant technology advances during 2012 in a number of key areas, including the mainstream adoption of LTE, Big Data, and analytics dominating the enterprise IT agenda.

Companies went from adopting cloud platforms and services to leveraging those services and transforming their businesses.

  • Windows 8 has shown just how important Internet connectivity will be for computing in many capacities.
  • Every major IT vendor has focused to some extent on the convergence of mobile, cloud, analytics, social, and helping companies make IT a central part of their business in every aspect.
  • From SalesForce to Azure, cloud-based solutions are expected to grow even more in 2013.

As more and more companies begin waking up to this new reality, the question is not if adoption of key technologies such as cloud and mobile will take place, but how quickly and what can be done to make them work for the business as fast as possible. Furthermore, as these technologies are integrated deeper into the enterprise, it will be critical to keep in mind what other technologies will follow in their path. Read more of this post

Mobile Themes in 2012: Q1

Daniel Maycock is one of Slalom’s acknowledged thought leaders in the realm of new and emerging technology.

Both at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and Mobile World Congress (MWC), companies were making big announcements on what will be hot topics for 2012. As there’s a great deal of content already out there, I decided to cover the bigger topics that I saw as most prevalent at the conference, and include some links to get further information.

Now, for the big themes…

The Internet of Things: Mobile 2.0
It was evident this year, that a big theme for mobile companies was the connected home experience. This isn’t just because the Slalom team helped with the AT&T Digital Life™ exhibit, but rather was a topic covered by a number of different mobile companies throughout the conference. Now that mobile devices have hit a critical mass around the world, companies invested in mobile technology and networks are beginning to promote ways in which to take better advantage of this connectivity, through Machine-To-Machine (M2M) technologies as well as sensors, and other context-rich technologies to help grow the level of interactivity between mobile devices and the world surrounding them. Furthermore, as revenue growth from mobile devices is reduced due to saturation in the marketplace, companies that traditionally grow their revenue based on growing the number of services/features/devices that customers have, will need to branch out into new revenue streams to maintain steady growth and increase Average-Revenue-Per-User (ARPU). Read more of this post

Mobile World Congress 2012: Day 2

Daniel Maycock is one of Slalom’s acknowledged thought leaders in the realm of new and emerging technology.

Not only were mobile carriers in display though, but non-traditional displays, such as Ford & BMW, were on display showcasing mobile integration and up and coming features to their automobiles. It’s truly a demonstration that mobile is becoming more than just the phone in your pocket, but is impacting the way people interact with everything from the cars they drive, to the homes they live in.

More coverage to follow tomorrow, as we continue to explore Mobile World Congress.

As always, keep an eye out on our Twitter & Facebook site for any late breaking news and information!

Mobile World Congress 2012: Day 1

Daniel Maycock is one of Slalom’s acknowledged thought leaders in the realm of new and emerging technology.

Day 2 is set to be an even more exciting today, with a number of new visitors along with a formal open house from 3 to 5 PM, which will include a number of executives both from AT&T and other clients and partners. We’ll keep reporting as the day progresses, so keep an eye out for our twitter & Facebook feeds as well as our blog as we recap early tomorrow on Day 2’s events.

What is Mobile? A Definition for Today’s Business World

Daniel Maycock is one of Slalom’s acknowledged thought leaders in the realm of new and emerging technology.

Here is the answer I most often give, to help clarify how you can define “mobile” as well as the world it fits within.

Production
This is the ability to create new content, publish papers or PowerPoints, and build new digital media for others to consume. Traditional production devices are screens, mice, and keyboards all working with components like hard drives and processors, assembled in both desktop and laptop form. Can you turn an iPad into a production device? Sure, add a keyboard and turn your iPad into a screen–though you have the ability to produce content on tablets, without a physical keyboard, that’s not what it’s ideally built for, which is… Read more of this post

Building a Strategy That Sticks

Daniel Maycock is one of Slalom’s acknowledged thought leaders in the realm of new and emerging technology.

What I’ve found more often then not, is that mobile strategy is more about how companies adopt to change and adapt their existing business to something disruptive, then it is about devices or the software running on them. Read more of this post

Ideas That Make Technology Powerful

Daniel Maycock is one of Slalom’s acknowledged thought leaders in the realm of new and emerging technology.

In the past several years I’ve been following the mobile industry, I’m often reminded that mobile technology isn’t about simply apps or phone calls, but rather the continued infusion of technology throughout every day life. There is no device that knows a person better than their cellphone, and as that bond continues to build along with the evolution of better technology into smaller and smaller packages, more will be done with a smart phone than ever before thought.

And yet, with all the interest and excitement in this field, Smart phone technology only makes up roughly 28% of all cellphones owned by Americans. This alone may not seem like much of a surprise, but when one considers how much is going on within that 28%, the figure that really seems amazing is the 72% of Americans that have yet to jump on board, and the evolution in service and technology that will occur while the 3 in 4 Americans slowly start to adapt to Read more of this post

Making the Case for BlackBerry®

Daniel Maycock is one of Slalom’s acknowledged thought leaders in the realm of new and emerging technology.

Though the iPhone is one of the greatest phones from a breadth standpoint, the BlackBerry is a true marvel from a depth standpoint. From being able to do simple things like easily forwarding meeting notices, to checking free/busy calendars from other team members while tracking down a particular attachment from a particular day–though Android & iOS both have exchange integration, there’s just no beating a BlackBerry.

Now the argument is often made around apps, that devices live and die by Read more of this post

Consumer Devices & Enterprise Users

Daniel Maycock is one of Slalom’s acknowledged thought leaders in the realm of new and emerging technology.

It’s long been the case that enterprises expect different things out of their technology than the average consumer. From printers that can do 100 pages per second, to fax machines that can staple and bind themselves, to a whole system of day planners that requires a weekend seminar to understand and utilize. So it makes sense, when the Palm Pilot first came out as the ultimate information manager, that it was largely targeted towards enterprise users. After all, how slick was it to pull out your PDA, access your calendar, to-do items, and memos in the middle of a meeting without having to run back to your desk?

But oh, how far we’ve come. Today Verizon announced a new partnership with Good for Enterprise, that will allow Android phones to be deployed within an enterprise. Now every Tom, Dick, and Susie can use a Droid X in their meetings or on the road with the same use and ease as they did with their enterprise-friendly BlackBerry. RIM still maintains its foothold on the Read more of this post

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