Continuous Innovation is Key for Survival

20 Oct, 2016
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Over the past few weeks, my colleagues and I have published a series of blogs about the essential building blocks for successful software product development. The topics we covered ranged from 6P’s for better software, JumpStart, Strategic approach to Product Roadmap Management, aligning organizational and product lifecycles, and Journey to Scrum. I would like to conclude this series with a blog on the need for continuous innovation.

As many of you must have experienced, new paradigms and digital technologies influenced by SMAC (Social, Mobility, Analytics, and Cloud) and IoT have caused tremendous disruption, giving rise to innovative products and services as well as new companies. A decade ago, no one heard about Facebook, or WhatsApp. Facebook wasn’t even the first company in the social media space, and in fact MySpace preceded it by a year. Apple wasn’t even into mobile telephony, iphone hadn’t debuted, the likes of Nokia and Blackberry were dominating the global mobile phone market, Google was just a search player, and Amazon was just an online retailer.

Fast forward 10 years, and look at the current state of the technology industry:

    • Google’s Android OS dominates the smartphone market with approximately 87 % share.
    • iPhone is the world’s best selling smartphone.
    • Blackberry stopped making smartphones and Nokia is an afterthought.
    • Facebook, Google, and Apple are some of the most valuable companies in the world.
    • Cloud and IoT are transforming the business world like never before.
    • Amazon has transformed itself from a retail player into a technology giant.

If anything the past decade has firmly established and reinforced the following realities:

    • Change and continuous disruption are the dominant features of the knowledge driven economy.
    • Bulk of the technology innovations are predominantly software driven.
    • The pace of change and technology innovation can be quite breathtaking.
    • Yesterday’s pioneer and market leader can become just a footnote in the blink of an eye.
    • A constant and continuous ability to innovate, adapt and transform are critical for survival.

One overarching takeaway or learning from the experience of the past decade, is the inescapable truth that it is no loner enough to be either the first player to hit the market with a new product, or disrupt the market with a big bang innovation. The first mover advantage is neither adequate nor sustainable, as newer and nimbler players are continuously disrupting with innovative products and services.

Continuous Disruption demands Continuous Innovation

So, the overriding question is how can one overcome these continuously disrupting forces? As many of these forces are predominantly external and outside your span of control, the only thing one can do is be prepared from an internal perspective. This brings us to the following important challenges:

    • Escaping the inherent inertia bred by past success
    • Staying organizationally nimble
    • Retaining the capacity for continuous innovation

The market place is strewn with examples of companies which were flush with their current/past success, didn’t have any incentive to change, and perished as a result. While there is no magic bullet to ensure continued success, one can certainly learn from players who continued to be successful through the upheaval:

    • Given the fact that software is driving innovation, mastering the end-to-end development to delivery process is a must.
    • Best-in-class software development processes with automation must be adopted.
    • Implement DevOps for continuous delivery.
    • An unrelenting focus on innovation.
    • Avoid the big bang trap, and target incremental improvements and iterative releases to your products and services.
    • Try to stay ahead of the curve in terms of technology adaption.
    • Extreme customer centricity, should drive your business and product strategy.
    • Ensure that your organizational structure and processes are aligned with your product lifecycle phase.
    • Extreme ease of use should and UX should factor into your product design.

There is an old adage that “Only the paranoid survive”. In this modern, ultra-competitive and disruptive business and technology landscape, only those with a long-term vision, strategy, agility, and capacity for continuous innovation will stand a chance to survive and succeed.

Sashikanth Pochimcharla
Sashi’s motto is “operational excellence” and it is easier said than done. Sashi has a knack for understanding the customer requirements, and translating them into tangible operational goals in terms of people and processes.

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