by: Yann Gourvennec
A brand new version of the Orange innovation whitepaper for business services - which I have co-authored with Jean-François Fava Verde - has just been made available (click here to download).
This latest version of the whitepaper was distributed at Connect 2007, the worldwide event for Orange Business Services clients which took place in Lisbon on June 4-6, 2007. The event was extremely successful. Many break-out sessions (see photo on the left-hand side) took place on location, at the Corinthia Hotel Lisbon, and Innovation was on the agenda of many a presentation by our top Execs. The whitepaper was widely distributed (many thanks to Mark Wigington, our VP for IT services, for his renewed support) and our break-out session was also extremely successful and triggered interesting discussions with clients about how to handle and foster innovation jointly. The break out that Jean François and I had organised with the help of Orange Labs and our partner 123interview was also a success.
The climax of that presentation was an interactive session where we asked attendees to show us their vision of innovation through a survey which contained 4 main sets of questions: 1) about our clients’ views on the lifespan of innovation (from short to long term, what I have also called the ‘innometer’) 2) about our clients’ 3 most important business issues where innovation could play a role 3) about the 3 main technologies which were on our clients’ radar screen in order to solve their business issues (hence question 2) 4) about how favourable or unfavourable our clients were with regard to working jointly with one of their vendor. But it was no ordinary old fashioned paper-based survey, nor even was it a plain-vanilla online Internet survey.
Orange labs had designed a real-time digitally-enabled paper-based survey for us. What is it then? The paper-based survey - available here - was not printed on ordinary paper but using a special grid. The systems worked with a set of Logitech digital pens linked to a bluetooth-enabled smart phone. Each time a client was filling in the form by ticking the boxes (two for each question, i.e. their vision for today and for tomorrow) and eventually ticking the send button at the end of the form, the data from that questionnaire was sent to a server (based in Grenoble, France) and crunched by the application and then sent back to an Internet page which was used to display the results in near real-time (in actual fact, the pages were refreshed every other minute). With this system, we were able to analyse the results in front of our clients and reflect their vision for innovation in real-time.
The system wasn’t just designed for the survey, but also to show what we are able to do at Orange and Orange Labs for the benefit of our clients. Rather than just go at length about how beneficial our processes are and so on and so forth, we thought that showing an example of what can be achieved concretely was actually much more tale-telling. This kind of paper-form digitalisation is - by the way - being implemented with some of our clients, including a large European bank at this very moment. The potential for such tools is really extraordinary. No training and no special hardware are required nor awkward on-screen sign-off for instance. Plus each set of responses can be tracked to its original page and intelligent character recognition (ICR) can also be used (we could have had ‘other please state’ boxes in that survey for instance. In this particular instance, we chose not to, so that we wouldn’t have to ask our attendees to form their letters correctly - a must in ICR - as it was really impractical in such a session. Imagine all the possible and almost endless applications in field-force automation for instance.
The Innovation survey results (available here in pdf format) were very interesting too (statistically unrepresentative but the experience could be extended to wider representative samples at a later stage). These results can be used as basic assumptions, as we will see, they are mostly consistent with some of the feedback we have already had from direct conversations with clients).
important notice: please note that in this analysis we only compiled the first eighteen responses to the survey
Question 1 was about the time to implement new ideas, and especially, our clients’ preferred target time-frame for such innovation implementation.
The responses we had in that instance were completely consistent with previous direct feedback we had time and time again, and which can be summed up by the tag line ‘leading edge, not bleeding edge’. Clients are looking after innovations which they can implement rather fast in their organisations. This, by the way, is also consistent with IT management cycles, which are set around 3 years on average. The timeframe for change implementation is therefore bound to be less than 3 years, and this is reflected very well in our results since we received no answers for item 4. As to the today/tomorrow comparison, there are practically no differences between both sets of responses, except that maybe the focus is even more on short term implementation in the future (we would have to complement this survey with a representative sample if we wanted to know more about this).
Question number 2 was not about technologies. Instead, it was about our clients’ 3 (max.) main business priorities (hence the number of responses which is above 18). This is an interesting result too. As it appears that today’s focus is on CRM and collaboration in the workplace, it really seems that the workplace of the future is on the agenda for tomorrow. And we know for certain that plans are underway (in Paris and other cities) in order to revise the daily commuting plans and find new innovative ways to favour telework and innovative working practices (reduction of carbon emission and public transport overload are the main incentives in that respect)
Question 3 was dedicated to the technologies that our clients were considering for the resolution of today’s and tomorrow’s business issues (re. question 2). On top of today’s agenda, IP services on top of telephony over IP and it’s true that such services (including seamless collaboration over TOIP are now possible because most enterprises have either implemented TOIP or are currently in the process of either rolling it out or designing new projects for it. Number 2 technology for today is undoubtedly blogs and wikis in the workplace. Then come a number of other technologies such as nfc/remote tracking and tracing (that one came as a surprise) and telepresence which has been heavily promoted recently (namely by Cisco - check their webpage here). And telepresence actually comes first in tomorrow’s list with 7 votes and then we’ll find 4 other technologies, one of which being the very promising content-based routing/semantic web.
Responses to question 4 at last, were like music to our ears as they confirmed our clients’ willingness to take part in a team with one of their vendors. It proves once more that clients are not just seeking prices and that when a vendor is offering value added, clients are willing to follow new rules and open their books to take their fair share of the benefit of collaboration.