Product Innovation Trends

Accelerating Innovation: Competition is Heating Up

Jessica Davis | March 18, 2014

The following is third in a series of excerpts from our whitepaper: Better, Smarter Faster: Accelerating Innovation Across The Enterprise. Read the previous posts: The New Economic Reality and Competition in Global Markets.

Innovation is key to success, even for industries that have often been resistant to transformation. And it doesn’t take a lean startup mentality to make it happen, although it helps. Consider the humble thermostat. It’s a product design that stayed pretty much the same for decades. When Nest, a start-up founded by a group of engineers and designers (and many former Apple employees, including Tony Fadell), unveiled a “smart” home thermostat, many people were underwhelmed. But they quickly discovered that the energy saving features (and sleek design) made an ordinary control switch into an object of desire.

Internet-connected thermostats were around before Nest’s version, just like there were digital music players before the iPod. Industry giant Honeywell had been working on programmable thermostats for decades, and they’ve recently produced a smart Wi-Fi thermostat with something they’ve discovered something consumers really want—voice control. But like the iPod, the Nest thermostat was so much more ingenious than anything else on the market, with a focus on design, smart systems that learn and adapt, and user-friendly features, it seemed like something entirely new—and truly innovative.

Nest encourages collaboration—the product teams continually gain insights from customers on the features people want most. The most frequently requested product suggestions can quickly be incorporated. For example, people whose homes got a lot of direct sunlight noticed the temperature controls were consistently out of balance. So Nest invented a feature that senses when the device is in direct sunlight and automatically adjusts so it reads and sets the correct temperature. This feature, like other upgrades to the products, was delivered through an overnight upgrade via Wi-Fi.

What do these stories have in common? Innovation, yes, but it goes beyond that. In today’s economy, every company is a technology company, and speed is a driver across every industry. Mobile and cloud computing are raising expectations—people demand results faster. According to O’Reilly, Amazon, the leader in public cloud infrastructure, deploys every 11.6 seconds. What does it take to invent new ideas and improve product development— and do it faster than ever before?

Clearly there are several moving parts to creating an enterprise that enables and embraces accelerated innovation. Apple continues to demonstrate the almost uncanny ability to understand what customers want and make extraordinary products in order to meet their needs now and in the future. But it also takes comprehensive integration—the ability to manage massively complex projects across teams—to deliver groundbreaking products. And by creating multiple prototypes, they’re able to iterate and fine-tune every offering in order to hit the fast-moving target of customer demand.

The ability to pivot quickly, and react to opportunities faster than the competition, like Samsung, makes it possible to continually deliver the right product at the perfect moment and continually deliver upgrades and new features. Nest also shows the value of acceleration by delivering more value—
like thermostat upgrades people have been asking for—as quickly as possible.

And what enables this level of integration
and acceleration for leading organizations? Empowerment. When you give your teams the power to continually understand the context of what they’re doing and why they’re doing it throughout the product development process, they’ll be better equipped to embrace change. They’ll always know the potential impact of everything they’re doing, and they’ll be able
to trace the impact of every alteration and every decision. With a seamlessly integrated system, every team across every process
will be able to react quickly, collaborate effectively, and innovate their approach.

Successful companies spend a lot of time listening to customers and keeping them in the feedback loop in order to make sure their products hit the moving target. Collaboration with customers as well as stakeholders across the organization— with clear lines of communication and sign off—is also critical. And in order to get the right people in sync, it’s important to break down operational silos that prevent members of product development teams from acting in harmony. That way, teams can also spend less time planning what they’ll need to do, and more time actually doing it.

Check back on the blog for the next section of the series or download the complete whitepaper now: Better, Smarter Faster: Accelerating Innovation Across The Enterprise.