We spoke with business consultant, VP and Principal Analyst for Digital Marketing Transformation at Constellation Research, Gavin Heaton, about innovation and the role of mobility in enabling Australian enterprises. Heaton's insights are enlightening for CIOs pursuing infrastructure planning to support customer relationships.
Philip Parker (PP): Gavin, you've been blogging about enterprise technology for a long time now at servantofchaos.com, and you have spoken extensively about the challenges of innovation in business. Can you tell us what you believe to be the investment priorities for Australian enterprises to facilitate innovation?
Gavin Heaton (GH): In general, we tend to take a cautious approach to innovation. This means that innovation has to be managed and shepherded through an enterprise to cause a minimum of disruption to business-as-usual. As a result, business investment tends towards the management of innovation as much as toward the innovation itself.
However, the last 12 months has seen a flourishing of innovation ventures within larger enterprises. We are seeing start-up culture seeping into the fringes of the enterprise. This is a more exciting prospect and is vital to maintaining our international competitiveness. After all, we really are operating in a global market, and this means technology driven innovation just gives us a seat at the table. We need to work on the next level.
PP: What are some of the technology-based prerequisites for innovation in enterprises?
GH: I continue to be surprised by the low levels of adoption of social technologies within the enterprise. It's like we're having the "ROI of email" conversations all over again. Innovation really cannot happen in isolation anymore - those days are long gone. We now need business policies that address social business topics, management of identity and reputation, as well as technology/device strategies (like BYOD) before we can even start thinking about innovation.
And we need innovation sponsorship. This is where the role of the Chief Digital Officer is important. If we don't have leadership across the enterprise, then it's easy for technology and corporate policy to get in the way of growing our businesses.
PP: The Optus Business Future of Business Mobility Insights Paper identified that mobility is improving productivity. What are some of the challenges in delivering productivity improvements when mobile devices are adopted?
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GH: A lot of people are hamstrung by older devices that were issued by their business. When they are frustrated, they use their personal phones or tablets to access cloud based platforms and social networking sites. It's happening every day right under the noses of IT departments across the country. Again, the CDO can help drive the transformation in business thinking required to unleash workforce productivity.
There are also some caveats. We are not talking about "future ways of working" - but ways of working now. The future is upon us. We need to provide some training and perhaps "reverse mentoring" - where our younger employees are teamed with more senior people to help bring their tech literacy up-to-date. As with any technology innovation, the productivity inhibitors are to do with people's behaviour and usage, not with the technology itself.
PP: Is there anything in the Future of Business: Mobility report that surprised or interested you particularly?
GH: There is a great reminder about the power of speed in the discussion on 4G. We forget how easy it is to become used to powerful computing and network infrastructure. As business people, we adapt very quickly to better and faster ways of working and absorb it into our business DNA. The next generation of devices and mobile data will change not just where we work, but how we work and how we feel about it. And that comes down to speed and reliability of access.
PP: Finally, what are some of the big trends you've noticed in your work with Constellation Research that will impact on business communication with customers?
GH: There are two major forces that I have been looking at - the rise of the "consumerverse" and "disruption as usual". The rise of the consumerverse is an acknowledgement that the centre of power in the customer relationship has been irrevocably shifted from business to the individual. For businesses wanting to succeed, they can no longer put their head in the sand - they need to understand their connected consumers in newer, deeper and more meaningful ways.
And this is linked to the second force - again, simply acknowledging that our next competitive threat is unlikely to come from where we think it will. Almost every industry is subject to disruption. But rather than aiming for "business as usual", we need to rethink our strategies and build organisations that can cope with disruption as a natural state of business. After all, we'll never be "normal" again.
This is another edition in the series of Q&A sessions with business leaders and experts. If you'd like to be involved in a Q&A session with Optus Business, get in touch with us at @Optusbusiness on twitter or email us at email@example.com.
By Philip Parker, Optus Business Director of Product Marketing (Mobility). More from Philip on Twitter: @pguestp
All views expressed are the author's own.