I recently ran a panel on the impact of Mobile+Social+Cloud on enterprise applications at the INNOVATE conference hosted by Global Logic in Palo Alto (http://www.innovate.globallogic.com/). The panel itself was very diverse with representatives from SAP, SalesForce, Citrix, HP, SugarCRM, and Yammer discussing a range of issues from security and control of the cloud to changes in software development and business models. While the group diverged on its views around the dependability of cloud services like Amazon EC2 for mission critical enterprise apps, they agreed on shrinking development cycles, the need for more “user-centered” design, and the drive towards more integrated or “stacked” applications.
Even more interesting than the panel was the keynote by Geoffrey Moore talking about the need for a tectonic shift in Enterprise IT from “Systems of Record” to “Systems of Engagement” driven my Mobile+Social+Cloud. Empowered end-users are demanding the same rich experience from enterprises that they are getting from consumer applications on their smartphones and tablets. Enterprises that fail to innovate around the user experience will be subject to wrath of users that will find ways to innovate around them. In the past, I have called this the “Big Flip” where the decision power and influence know longer resides with central IT but at the edge with these highly empowered end-users equipped with better technology than what the enterprise has in many cases.
While it is easy to point out the dilemma these organizations face, the harder part if figuring out what to do to fix it. Many companies have looked for the quick fix by migrating their data to the cloud, adopting social networks for business, deploying tablets, or even trying to build a set of new mobile apps to address some of the obvious near term opportunities opportunities. While these seems like reasonable steps to start on the journey, they may be window dressing on the a deeper issue lurking below the surface. Does the organization need to change its fundamental approach to innovation to capitalize on this new technology wave?
Unfortunately, the innovation model in most large companies is broken as has been pointed out by countless thought leaders from Clay Christensen to Geoffrey Moore. Yet most companies plunge into mobile and social the same way they address other critical needs in their business, throw resources at it and hope it gets fixed. Without fixing the underlying innovation model, you may build one or even several beautiful apps, but will you be able to repeat it?
Based on some of my previous research around innovation models, there are several key building blocks that organizations should look to develop in order to get ahead of the mobile internet wave:
1) Excellent sensing capability – the ability to observe and detect latent users needs and anticipate new inflection points in user behavior, technologies and business models will be critical to identifying the next set of high impact mobile opportunities for your business.
2) Co-innovation testbed that supports the development and validation of new solutions with customers and partners. This should include and integrated mobile-social-cloud environment and adequate seed capital to get these ideas to the point of proof of concept.
3) Iterative Pilot Process that allows for quick deployment and updating of the pilot solution based on feedback from users in the field.
4) Venture-like organization structure and incentives that enables the pursuit of higher risk, transformative solutions without the burden of short-term ROI metrics.
It goes without saying that every organization must tailor its innovation model to it own unique mission and culture. But don’t assume what has worked in the past is sufficient for innovating in the future. Failing fast, cheap, and often with users at the center of development and feedback will be a prerequisite to getting to game-changing solutions in the mobile+social+cloud era.