Jump-Starting the Innovation Engine

February 2, 2011

As US companies emerge from what is now acknowledged as the longest economic downturn of the post-World War II era, they are beginning to prioritize innovation as a primary engine for long-term growth.

Managing the innovation process from concept to implementation is a challenge for any large company. Understanding the core challenges and implementing appropriate measures are central to ensuring a streamlined innovation process that delivers a consistent competitive advantage in a global economy.

Below are some of the key ingredients to successful innovation in a large corporate environment:

  • Clear direction and vision by senior management – Management must clearly articulate strategic priorities and areas of innovation focus – at the corporate level, at the business unit level, and at the department level. This clarity can help channel innovation in the right direction.
  • An environment conducive to innovation – Freedom and flexibility for experimentation along with incentives for carrying products from ideation to commercialization provide a strong foundation for an innovative culture.
  • Clear definition of solution and value proposition – Innovation can take place on several fronts – product, process, or business model. Inventors must clearly articulate the problem statement, the target solution, and the potential value of the proposed solution. A systematic framework leveraging value realization methodology (e.g. Infosys’s VRM) in conjunction with business case analysis and lean principles can help articulate the value of the solution and the resulting benefits to the company.
  • Prioritization of target initiatives – The proposed ideas and initiatives should generally address the direction and strategic priorities set forth by senior management. Organizations are usually resource constrained. A ‘funnel’ process can help prioritize initiatives so they are well-funded and well-supported for success. However, we must not resort to excessive formal structures as micromanagement will only stifle innovation.
  • Buy-in/sponsorship from senior management – Disruptive ideas can be weighed down by resistance from individuals and middle managers who are impatient for tangible benefits and who would prefer the trodden path. Sponsorship from senior management is essential to preserve the freedom and flexibility of the innovating team to explore the full potential of the innovation.
  • A matrixed, multi-disciplinary team – Disruptive innovation usually begins at the fringes of disciplines. A multi-disciplinary team can bring together ideas from disparate disciplines to ‘break the mold’ and work around a new paradigm. An ability to put together small, highly-qualified cross-functional teams quickly in a matrixed environment that transcends organizational boundaries is vital to bringing innovative and disruptive ideas to rapid prototyping and field test. Further, team dynamics and involvement are critical to harmonious creativity.
  • Early customer integration – Involving a lead customer in early prototyping can help refine product features and quality and accelerate its evolution to mass production.
  • Ecosystem leverage Collaborating closely with key strategic ecosystem partners to leverage their assets during new product development can greatly reduce overall development costs, accelerate time-to-market, mitigate risks, provide access to new markets, and simplify the out-of-the-box customer experience. Continuous re-investment by ecosystem partners can help ensure new product longevity via a common platform strategy and a shared investment-risk-success model.
  • Clear assessment metrics – Performance metrics and milestones must be put in place that clearly define success criteria at a project level and hold the team accountable. Periodic check-point reviews ensure continuous progress and improvement by various milestones.
  • Rewards – Timely and visible recognition of inventors is integral in fueling the innovation engine. Rewards must be commensurate with impact/value to the organization. Managers are generally mired in execution challenges and pressured to deliver results over the short-term, and thus do not feel incentivized to sponsor innovation that has a long-term roadmap to fruition. It is therefore equally important to recognize the managers who ‘stick their neck out’ to sponsor innovative initiatives.

Innovation is an ongoing process that needs continuous refinement based on shifting market dynamics, technology progression, and ecosystem/value-chain evolution. Lean processes and a sound infrastructure that nurture the innovation process are fundamental to maintaining the growth engine in a competitive global economy.

Note: This article was originally published by the author at the Infosys Global Engineering Blog where you can find exciting new ideas on how you can improve your business via product innovation and engineering.

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The Importance of Customer Experience in Product Strategy

December 4, 2010


Customer Experience is a vital element of product development strategy that is often over-looked or under-appreciated. Traditionally, product strategy begins with capturing customer requirements usually in terms of product features or attributes. This is then translated into functional requirements or capabilities that the product must deliver. Customer experience is only captured as an after-thought, and when a product is put through the customer journey, it reveals many deficiencies that call for a product re-design and, consequently, a delay in time-to-market.

A product development strategy must be designed to deliver a compelling set of customer/user experiences rather than a collection of product features and attributes. Customer experience must therefore be factored in at the very outset of product design.

Customer experiences do not occur in product or functional silos. An end-to-end approach comprehending machine and human interactions is key to understanding customer experience.

Delivering a “superior experience” begins with

  • Designing the right offers and experiences for the right customers
  • Developing, measuring, and delivering a total customer experience that enhances customer satisfaction
  • Understanding the needs that drive customers to create interactions

It’s the journey, not the destination! A customer journey maps the experience through the lens of the customer. It helps us identify:

  • Customer lifecycle stages
  • Customer needs within each lifecycle stage
  • Key touch points where a company brand/product ‘touches’ and serves its customers
  • Usecases which determine how the customer will use the product
  • Challenges and hurdles for creating a satisfying customer experience
  • Opportunities to ‘engage’ with the customer, and innovate & improve the customer experience

A customer journey must be addressed as a process map that examines concatenated processes. In the early stages, a product strategy must be designed to deliver a set of target customer experiences. The product design must be iterated and validated by examining how the processes that constitute the customer journey actually work at each step. We must walk through the journey and understand what’s working and not working from a customer perspective.

Continuous improvement in customer experience can be enabled via

  • a disciplined & pragmatic approach that correlates user experience to customer needs, usecases, product functionality, and brand strategy
  • a systematic framework leveraging value realization methodology (e.g. Infosys’s VRM) in conjunction with lean six-sigma principles to improve and optimize speed & efficiency, remove root causes of customer experience ‘defects’,  and minimize variability in processes
  • designing for target customer experiences and monitoring via quantifiable metrics to manage the customer journey and continuously improve the total customer experience across multiple channels and touch-points throughout the customer lifecycle.

It is thus important to weave a clear customer experience strategy into the fabric of the organization’s product development strategy, especially in the B2C domain. This can be a significant enabler to improving a product’s competitive positioning and lifecycle, the company brand, and customer loyalty.

Note: This article was originally published by the author at the Infosys Global Engineering Blog where you can find exciting new ideas on how you can improve your business via product innovation and engineering.



Microsoft and Google put mobile computing within ARM’s reach

July 28, 2010

SUMMARY:

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) has realized that a strong play on the ARM platform is necessary moving forward especially in perspective of the competitive threat of the Google+ARM platform that has manifested strongly in smartphones and tablet devices.

Microsoft and ARM announced a new architecture licensing agreement that underscores the importance of ARM’s architecture on the Windows roadmap and perhaps heralds the game-changing arrival of the era of Windows+ARM based mobile computing and gaming platforms.

ANALYSIS

The convergence between mobile devices and classic desktop/laptop computing devices is resulting in new opportunities in a host of portable consumer devices such as E-readers, Tablets, gaming, media phones, and navigation devices.

While it indulged in the ARM space for smartphones where it failed to get sufficient traction, Microsoft did not see a compelling need to pursue an alternate platform for mobile computing since the WINTEL (Windows + Intel (NASDAQ:INTC)) platform had a stronghold in this sector.

Many prominent portable consumer devices however have now embraced ARM as the platform for such emerging devices. Notable examples include:

ARM’s Cortex A8 and Cortex A9 (with multi-core processing capabilities) platforms at ≥1GHz are cost competitive and more power efficient, and offer a compelling alternative to Intel’s processors for these emerging portable consumer device platforms.

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), who has challenged Microsoft with new paradigms and business models, has sided with the ARM platform for its thrust into smartphones with its Android OS. This ARM+Android mobile platform has gained momentum among smartphone OEMs incl. Motorola (NYSE:MOT), Samsung, Sony Ericsson, HTC (TPE:2498), LGE, Dell, Acer, etc. that has translated into significant market share gain within smartphones.

Google is aggressively mounting a similar campaign to address the world of tablets, smartbooks, and netbooks leveraging the ARM hardware platform via its Android OS and the Chrome OS platforms.

Google’s royalty-free OS model combined with the cost and power advantage of high-performance ARM processors makes a potent combination that threatens the WINTEL alliance from extending its dominance into the smartbook/tablet/e-reader space. For example,  notable players from the PC camp including Dell, Acer, Lenovo, Asus, Samsung, LGE etc. have chosen to introduce Android+ARM based tablets.

Most of these emerging consumer computing devices are ‘communication devices’ that have built in modems. As these devices become mass market plays, cost and power reduction will increasingly drive integrated (applications + modem) processors where ARM-based players Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), ST-Ericsson, Marvell, Renesas, etc. are well-positioned relative to X86 players (Intel, AMD (NYSE:AMD), VIA).

Microsoft has thus realized that a strong play on the ARM platform is necessary moving forward.

This announcement underscores the importance of ARM’s architecture on the Windows roadmap and perhaps heralds the game-changing arrival of the era of Windows+ARM based mobile computing and gaming devices. The proactive engagement will enable Microsoft to stay in sync with ARM’s roadmap and optimize their leading-edge Windows smartphone and Windows embedded OS platforms with corresponding leading-edge ARM-based products.

One thing is clear. ARM is the winner as Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung, Qualcomm etc. are doing the heavy lifting, and even Apple (with its ARM based A4 chip that is the foundation of its new iPad and iPhone 4) is doing its share.

Note: There’s more valuable insight on smartphones and new wireless frontiers at http://emblazeworld.com/ in the Resources section


What’s your smart (phone) call?

August 21, 2009

Smartphones are poised to be the fastest growing handset segment in the coming years, rising from 14% of global handset shipments in 2008 (Ref 1) to a projected 32% in 2010 (Ref 2).

Further, smartphones command higher ASPs (average selling price) on the order of US$350 (2008)  signaling higher revenue and profitability potential for handset OEMs. This has heightened the intensity of competition among handset makers.

Historically, handsets have evolved more as ‘fat modems’ where application processing and modem communication were all handled on the same chip. On the other hand, application centric devices such as PCs, gaming devices etc. evolved as standalone devices based on discrete applications processors. Connectivity was added on via discrete connectivity modules.

While data speed does impact user experience, application and related services offer many dimensions to differentiate personalization and user experience, thus leading to higher ARPU over voice centric services.

The two worlds are set to collide to create converged devices with vast possibilities (Refs 3 and 4). It also means non-traditional wireless players whose core competency is more on the applications side will enter the fray. For example, Intel is pushing its application processor, Atom, from Netbooks down into Smartphones (Ref. 3). On the other hand, Qualcomm has just announced it is targeting its integrated application and baseband processor, Snapdragon, at Smartbooks (Ref 4).

CRITICAL QUESTION  – DISCRETE vs. INTEGRATED PROCESSORS?

The handset designer is now confronted with a daunting choice – the use of a discrete applications processor in conjunction with a discrete baseband processor versus an integrated SoC that combines an applications processor with a baseband processor in a single chip.

Product management and handset designers need to evaluate the trade-offs in reaching an appropriate decision. Here are some key trade-offs that influence the decision process:

Discrete vs. Integrated Smartphone Components

Discrete vs. Integrated Smartphone Components

Neither is a silver bullet.

Both have a rightful place and will jostle with each other to dominate this growing segment.

The choice however can have significant implications on product and business competitiveness via such dimensions as system cost, time-to-market, power consumption, flexibility to spin out devices for different communication standards, performance maximization, harmonization of user experience, device form factor (via PCB size & component count) and component supply chain management.

REFERENCES

Ref. 1:  ABI Research – Smartphone and OS markets (Q1-2008)
Ref. 2:  Qualcomm- Evolving Wireless Services (Jan, 2009)
Ref. 3: Sharp unwraps ‘world first’ Intel Atom phone
Ref. 4: Qualcomm Enters Intel Territory

★★★ There’s more valuable insight on smartphones and new wireless frontiers at http://emblazeworld.com/ in the Resources section (see whitepapers)


Embedded Wireless Consumer Devices – Catch the Wave !!

June 25, 2009

Embedded wireless broadband is a tremendous growth opportunity in the consumer electronics (CE) space such as laptops, netbooks, digital cameras, e-book readers, gaming, portable navigation, and other devices.

Embedded wireless provides network operators the opportunity of maximizing revenues and profits via the efficient use of network capacity and spectrum assets, and potential revenue sharing from applications and services. At the same time, device OEMs can innovate to open up vast possibilities in the consumer electronics space in ways never imagined before.

More importantly, network operators now have an opportunity to leverage their core competencies and transform themselves from staid bandwidth providers to solutions/managed service providers who help companies leverage embedded wireless to foster innovation & differentiation in new markets, promote new business models, and enhance revenue opportunities ….much like IBM transformed itself from a pure hardware and software player to a solutions and managed services provider.

But many hurdles have to be overcome before embedded wireless can be mainstream in consumer electronic devices. New players, new devices, and new market dynamics will call for creative business models different from the traditional handset business model.  The challenges may be categorized into seven key areas.

Key Challenges for Embedded Wireless Consumer Devices

Key Challenges for Embedded Wireless Consumer Devices

1. Lower entry barriers for OEMs

  • Easy wireless integration by OEM with minimal BoM (bill-of-materials) impact
  • Easy device provisionability with minimal burden on OEM
  • Easy device upgradeability
  • Easy integration into IT infrastructure and back office systems
  • Expedient Testing & Certification – Simplified and efficient

2. Win-win business model between OEMs and Operators

  • Clear OEM/Operator business strategy
  • Clearly identified target market(s) and ROI
  • Clearly understood impact on current business model
  • What are the strategic competitive advantages?

3. Device design targeted for well-defined user experience

  • Specific device type (Data-only versus Voice+Data) targeted at well defined application/user experience at optimal cost
  • Ergonomic accessibility features
  • Features for enhanced user experience
  • Content, multimedia & graphics, page length, and download times optimized for specific device and user experience
  • Upgradeability – Device renewability, OTA upgradeability, Content portability

4. Application, Content, and VAS developer ecosystem

  • Win-Win business model between Application/VAS providers and OEMs
  • Developer-friendly environment incl. a standardized ‘open’ application development platform, and easy access to SDK, device simulator, and toolkits
  • A centralized App store (either through OEM or through the Operator) to distribute the applications
  • Expedient Application Testing & Certification

5. Efficient device deployment

  • Out-of-the-box flexible provisionability – Pre-provisioned, or simple 1-step on-line post-provisioning
  • An ‘Open network access’ model where any device can operate on any network.
  • Traditional distribution channels must be empowered to distribute easily

6. Simplified business model for consumers

  • Straightforward, simple, and compelling value proposition – centered on enhanced user experience and customer ownership
  • Targeted at lower total COO
  • Customized business model (versus one-size fits all)

7. Compelling end-user experience

  • Enhanced convenience, mobility, productivity, and user experience.
  • Built on familiar usage patterns
  • Easy out-of-box experience (Learn, Pre-loaded applications & content, provisioning/activation)
  • Enhanced operational (normal) usability experience – Overall ease of operation, accessibility, performance & responsiveness, battery life, reliability, peripheral connectivity to other devices
  • Superior aftermarket service – Customer service, Accessories
  • Availability of content, where applicable

Embedded wireless heralds a paradigm shift and a new revolution in consumer electronics.The new embedded wireless device world will provide opportunities for all players in the mobile ecosystem – Operators, Device OEMs, Application/VAS developers, System Integrators, Module providers, and Chipset providers.

2009 is the Year for Embedded Wireless. Beyond consumer devices, embedded wireless is finding its way into new domains – M2M communications, smart grid or smart meter technologies (energy conservation), and wireless medical devices (remote health monitoring).

This is a new frontier and it calls for new ideas and fresh perspectives. Many Operators (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, etc.),  OEMs, and consumer electronics companies have created separate divisions, un-shackled from their old ways of doing business, to address this emerging segment.

The opportunity is NOW! Are you ready?

★★★ There’s more info & insight on how you can penetrate the embedded wireless space at http://emblazeworld.com/ in the Resources section (see whitepapers)


Wireless Medical Devices – A New Era in Patient Care

June 4, 2009

★★★ You’re invited to listen to a special Chicago Tribune XMRadio interview on “WIRELESS CONNECTIVITY IN HEALTHCARE” on ReachMD (XM160), a channel dedicated for medical professionals.


The wireless revolution has had a tremendous impact on society and people worldwide. The technologies and networks that connect us to people, data, and devices wirelessly are rapidly transforming our everyday lifestyle and productivity in ways never imagined before. This technological trend is quietly and swiftly permeating the medical sector as well, where embedded wireless technologies and M2M (machine-to-machine) communications are bringing about dramatic improvements in the quality of healthcare by allowing patients unprecedented mobility while providing healthcare professionals with easy and real-time access to patient data.

In 2006 the cost for healthcare in the United States rose to $2.1 trillion or 16 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). The US Department of Health and Human Services reports that at least 60% (over 100M) of American adults have at least 1 chronic condition (disease that is long-lasting or recurrent); 77% over 65 have 2 or more chronic conditions; and 90% of all health care spending is towards treating chronic conditions.

The key drivers for wireless medical applications are:

  • Aging Demographic
  • Chronic care is the predominant health care issue
    – Over 77% above 65 have 2 or more chronic conditions
  • Government initiatives to control escalating health costs
    – Over two-thirds of all health care spending is towards treating chronic conditions.
  • Migration of health care model –Institution to proactive home care
  • Disruptive forces come together – The Internet and Wireless
  • New Revenue Opportunities for Operators, Health Care Device Manufacturers, and Health Care Service Providers

Awareness of telehealth and wireless medical applications is increasing with more high profile companies (GE, Google, HP, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Philips, Qualcomm, Siemens, TI, Wal-Mart, etc,) entering the space, along with prominent media coverage and a rise in the number of conferences highlighting the technology.

Some notable recent developments in the end-to-end health monitoring space are:

Wireless Health Device & Remote Patient Monitoring Systems

  • Philips  announced initiatives to offer wireless handheld medical care services including in-home wireless monitoring devices
  • Bosch offers a Telehealth Platform to Support Remote Health Monitoring and  Management Programs
  • Medtronic CareLink® Network with Conexus™ Wireless Telemetry for cardiac disease management
  • GE’s Quiet Care™ remote monitoring system for seniors
  • Intel and GE announced a health care alliance and plans to invest $250M in Medical Devices for telehealth and home health monitoring
  • St. Jude Medical introduced HouseCallPlus™, its remote Patient Monitoring System
  • Biotronik introduced a remote patient monitoring service and the Cardiomessenger

E-Health Records Initiatives

  • Microsoft announced “HealthVault”
  • Google announced its own Google Personal Health Records initiative
  • Walmart and Intel announced a joint eHealth records initiative

Wireless Health Forums and Standards Bodies

  • Continua Health Alliance  is a non-profit, open industry coalition of healthcare and technology companies dedicated to establishing standards and certification processes to ensure interoperability and co-esistence among personal health solutions (in conjunction with HL7, an ANSI standard for healthcare specific data exchange between computer applications).
  • The IEEE has also begun work on 10 telehealth device standards (part of the ISO/IEEE 11073 family) for controlling information exchange among medical devices and cell phones, personal computers, personal health appliances and other compute engines.
  • Wireless-Life Sciences Alliance  is an organization founded to create and promote an ongoing and expanding dialogue around the many opportunities to use embedded wireless technologies to advance the delivery of healthcare.
  • Increasing number of industry conferences related to wireless health technology.

Tangible perception of benefits

A recent national study of home health care agencies by Philips showed compelling and tangible benefits with telehealth:

  • 89% of agencies report that telehealth led to an increase in quality outcomes
  • 76.6% cited reduction in unplanned hospitalizations
  • 77.2% cited reduction in ER visits
  • 76% reported telehealth services led to patients improving self care by proactive disease management

The opportunity is here – Are you ready? By 2020 at least 160 million Americans are projected to have at least one chronic condition. An independent market study predicts  that the market for telehealth and home health monitoring for US and EU combined will grow from $3 billion in 2009 to an estimated $7.7 billion by 2012. Another study pegs the US market to grow from about $800M (2009) to $2.5B (2012) .

Private and public payers are beginning to buy into the advantages of telehealth. Medicare now reimburses for telehealth under particular circumstances and some private payers in certain geographies are also paying providers to use telehealth.

There are however significant challenges in the road ahead, some of which are:

  • Feasible business model, that is aligned with the interests  of all key players including the consumer, the health care providers, and the insurance companies.
  • Risk Management: Innovation risk has many unknowns. The goal is to mitigate and manage the risk.
  • Compelling Use-cases: The application of wireless must offer a compelling benefit. Further, the market is not one-size-fits-all. Telehealth solutions need to be better tailored to their end users
  • Optimized Design – The design must be optimized for performance, cost and power
  • Coexistence and Interoperability – Coexistence between different networked medical device systems, or the approach of enabling plug-and-play interoperability and connectivity, is quintessential for the success of future telehealth systems.
  • FDA Device Regulation & Certification: This is often a long and arduous process requiring significant investment in time and effort. Not all embedded wireless medical devices may need FDA certification. But those that address critical disease management areas such as congestive heart failure will certainly do.
  • Best Practices: A big challenge is the transition of medical device systems deployed on pilot vendor controlled networks to their deployment on hospital controlled enterprise networks. Often assumed to be straight-forward and simple, it is riddled with inefficiencies and hidden costs for vendors and providers alike. The development and proliferation of best practices is essential for successful deployment of a wireless medical device strategy.

Wireless is surely and swiftly bringing about a new revolution in health care. Are you ready for this paradigm shift?

★★★ There’s valuable info and insight on how you can penetrate the wireless medical device market at http://www.emblazeworld.com/ (Check out the special Chicago Tribune XMRadio interview)