What is an innovation?

What is an innovation?

Innovation is one of the most used buzzwords now-a-days. It’s the headline on many conferences, courses and seminars. Articles in the world’s most respected magazines cover stories about incredible and never-seen-before innovations on a regular basis.

The term „Innovation“ is used to label a major breakthrough like NFC/mobile payments as well as system evolution like desktop virtualization. There are several definitions of an innovation like „Innovation is a new idea, more effective device or process by Wikipedia, „A new method, idea, product, etc.“ by Oxford Dictionaries or „process of implementing new ideas to create value for an organization by Yale Information Technology Services.

Businessdictionary.com describes innovation as „process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay. To be called an innovation, an idea must be replicable at an economical cost and must satisfy a specific need. Innovation involves deliberate application of information, imagination and initiative in deriving greater or different values from resources, and includes all processes by which new ideas are generated and converted into useful products.

Innovation can come in a slow and evolutionary way, incrementally adding value to a product or service (for example fingerprint authentication in iPhones) or in a revolutionary way, introducing a breakthrough and disrupting certain area of business (for example mobile phones vs. wired telephones or tablets vs. traditional desktops/notebooks)

Key attributes of any innovation are: 1. creation of new market or significant competitive advantage on an existing market, 2. employment of new technologies or usage of existing technologies in a yet unseen way and 3. economical profitability when sold to end-users.

What do you understand under the term of innovation?


Six technology innovations in retail coming our way.

Six technology innovations

Let me share six technology innovations in retail coming our way that might change the way customers do their shopping.


Zulily Applies T.J. Maxx Model to E-Commerce by Ashley Lutz and Hayley Peterson @ dailyfinance.com

Similar to discount retailer T.J. Maxx, Zulily (ZU), founded in Seattle in 2010, creates a daily treasure hunt for the mothers who shop its site. While T.J. Maxx offers close-out discounts on various brands in its stores, Zulily’s website offers flash sales on apparel, home goods, toys, and more. The deals and constantly changing selection keep shoppers coming back, and the e-commerce site, which went public in 2013, has nearly 4 million users.


Carrefour trial indoor positioning using lighting by retail-innovation.com

Carrefour are trialling a connected lighting system with LED-based indoor positioning in a store in Lille, France. The lighting replaces its previous fluorescent lighting with 2.5 kilometres of energy efficient Philips LED lighting that uses light to transmit a location signal to a shopper’s smartphone, triggering an app to provide location-based services such as navigation and location aware offers.


Starbucks Revolutionizes Mobile Payments and Delivery by Ashley Lutz and Hayley Peterson @ dailyfinance.com

Starbucks (SBUX) is responsible for making coffee shops ubiquitous. Now the Seattle icon is leading the charge on mobile payments at its 21,000 locations. The company’s mobile app allowed customers to pay for their coffee beverages by smartphone before Apple Pay. An impressive 16 percent of transactions are now mobile. The company is also testing delivery in Seattle and New York.


Lowe’s Pushes Innovations To A New High by Avi Dan @ Forbes.com

Last year Lowe’s made fabric swatches and paint samples obsolete when it came to decorating. The home improvement store has built, what it dubs, a “holoroom.” It uses 3-D technology and augmented reality to allow customers to “walk” through a floor plan of their dream home. In the 20-foot by 20-foot specially designed room, customers can move anything from furniture to toilets and swap out floors and paint colors with the swipe of a finger on an iPad.


EDITD Shows Real-Time Purchases by Ashley Lutz and Hayley Peterson @ dailyfinance.com

EDITD is a technology company that helps retailers like Target (TGT), Gap (GPS) and Asos have “the right products, at the right place, at the right time.” The English company tracks what people are buying in real time. This helps retailers make better merchandising decisions and restock items faster.


Voice operated shopping Apps by Zoe Wood @ The Guardian

“Tesco, I want the same shopping as last week and I want it delivered on Thursday at 9pm.” If only buying your groceries online was as easy as barking an order at your phone. Mark Loosemore, commercial director of “voice assistant” technology firm Capito Systems, thinks it soon will be. “This is very, very new but we think this technology has quite broad applications,” he says. “We find that young people are much quicker to have a go than perhaps people who grew up with a desktop.”

Five Retail Innovations coming our way.

Five Retail innovations coming our wayLet me share five retail innovations coming our way that might change the way customers do their shopping.

Navigating the Supermarket in Super Style by Lou Carlozo @ foxbusiness.com

The smartphone has all but replaced the standalone GPS as a product in the average consumer’s tech arsenal. That’s because mapping apps from Google, Apple, and Waze help us get from point A to B. Ah, but they don’t do it indoors. Molloy sees a time in the not-too-distant future when app developers figure out how to map your favorite grocery store or retail store, so that you can just enter your grocery list, for example, and the app does the rest. “You can imagine a GPS that would take you on the most efficient course, where the store knows the things you buy and leads you there,” he says.

In Denmark, supermarket crowdsources suggestions for local products by Chris Kreinczes @ forbes.com

As concerns grow over food air miles, and more consumers want to buy local, SuperBrugsen in Denmark has come up with a novel way of ensuring that the produce they stock will appeal to eco-minded consumers. Through their website, customers can suggest particular local items they would like the store to stock, after which managers will taste-test the items to ensure their quality. A clever way to use customer crowdsourcing to ensure that the store only stocks items that will sell. The crowds have also been put to good effect in the Netherlands through the Avoid The Shopping Crowds app that analyzes social media feeds to tell the user how busy a shop is before they enter it. Both businesses use crowdsourced data to improve real life experience.

Try on augmented reality Lacoste shoes in store by retail-innovation.com

Lacoste have launched a mobile app which helps make styling your outfit with a pair of shoes a little quicker and a little more fun. Customers simply scan trigger images in-store to quickly try on a selected shoe and interact with additional content. Customers can also take photos and share them with friends on Facebook, Twitter and email. The application which uses product photos captured in 3D will be used in Lacoste’s stores, as well as concessions in department stores.

‘Colourmatic’ Window Display Advises on How to Enliven Your Outfit by creativity-online.com

New Zealand fashion retailer AS Colour, along with agency FCB Auckland, has launched a new technology designed to help consumers add spice to their wardrobes, while drawing them into its stores. The brand has launched Colourmatic, a “virtual stylist” digital display that can examine shoppers’ outfits.

Consumers stand before the display at the brand’s AS Colour Britomart store in New Zealand. It will rate their outfits on a scale of 1-100 and will determine originality and freshness, point out “weak link” pieces, whether or not everything harmonizes, and give them advice on what colors and pieces they should be mixing into their wardrobes. The recommendations, of course, are available steps away, through the doors of the AS Colour store.

“When it comes to making style decisions, many shoppers struggle to know exactly what they are looking for,” said AS Colour Art Director Stephen Richardson in a statement. “The Colourmatic acts as your own personal fashion critic, identifying where you need help and providing solutions.”

According to the agency, sales are up 16% since the launch of the campaign, and people who used the Colourmatic have improved their outfits by an average of 28%.

Amazon’s two-day-delivery program by J.J. MCCORVEY @ fastcompany.com

Last year, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told Fast Company, “The balance of power continues to shift toward consumers and away from companies.” One exception: Amazon itself, which amasses more power daily. Membership of its two-day-delivery program, Amazon Prime, grew by millions in 2013; its grocery-delivery service expanded to Los Angeles and San Francisco, hooking customers into regular delivery habits; and its Kindle Fire HDX, with an instant tech support feature, became an attractive alternative to the iPad. Competitors such as eBay try to compete, but Amazon’s Sunday-delivery partnership with the U.S. Postal Service—and its lofty promise of 30-minute drone delivery by 2015—put it far, far ahead. Yet Bezos still believes that it’s day one for the e-commerce giant. “There’s still so much you can do with technology to improve the customer experience,” he told Fast Company in September. “That’s the sense in which I believe it’s still day one, and that it’s early in the day. If anything, the rate of change is accelerating.” But with the combination of Amazon Prime, AmazonFresh, and the widespread fulfillment centers, it looks like Amazon is still going to be near impossible to catch.

As a comment, let me say that all text was used copy & paste from its original published place.

Making a business case for Contactless / NFC payments

ImageSince the time I posted an article regarding NFC payments  back in October 2013, I had a dozen of interesting discussions featuring the future of Contactless / NFC payments. Oddly enough, the most reoccurring question touched the point on when NFC payments will finally take off and do the magic. Well, the good news is – Contactless / NFC payments already took off, bad news is – Contactless / NFC payments are not suitable for every business.

Like every other initiative or project, introducing Contactless / NFC payments need a strong business case. Creating a business case is always a bit tricky and involves some magic, but luckily for NFC, we can use facts and figures to see whether Contactless / NFC payments will work for one’s business or not.

The basic fact is that Contactless / NFC payments do have quantitative limits. Those limits are put in place by card issuers like VISA or MASTERCARD and are quite simple:

Rule one: a single NFC purchase may not exceed 20 EUR

Rule two: a cumulative of all NFC purchases may not exceed 60 EUR

Any purchase failing rule one or rule two will be forced to be processed on-line (connection between the POS and the bank will be established) and will require card holder authorization (PIN or signature).

So back to the business case. Let’s go through simple steps.

ImageStep one: Can you sell your goods for a price under 20 EUR? If you can’t, then you can happily forget about Contactless / NFC as your purchases will violate rule number one. Here you need to determine the average value of purchases in your stores or the value of articles most commonly sold. If, for example, the average purchase from your business is around 15 EUR, you’re safe and can proceed to step two.

ImageStep two: Doing local research. For any Contactless / NFC payments project to be successful, you need your customer to actually have Contactless / NFC payments ready devices. Those include – bank issued cards, Contactless stickers, NFC sim cards or NFC capable smartphones. What is the penetration ratio of Contactless / NFC payments capable devices on those markets you operate? No idea? … you can find out more from local banks, bank associations, government financial authorities or from card issuers like VISA/MC/AMEX/DISCOVERER.

ImageStep three: Doing the math. Here we need to calculate total cost of Contactless / NFC payments implementation. Those may include but are not limited to: eventual purchase of new POS terminals including roll out costs, adjustments to POS software, adjustments to in-house payments processing software, testing and certifying the whole HW/SW solution by given authority (acquiring bank, VISA/MC, any government offices), solution testing in-house or externally, training of your IT staff, training of your sell guys, marketing costs (advertisement, printed posters and stickers in your stores, promotions), eventual incentives to customers using Contactless / NFC payments (even if for a limited time). There you go, now you have your total cost of Contactless / NFC payments implementation bill.

ImageStep four – allocating financial resources. Should you have enough money ready to play for the whole total cost of Contactless / NFC payments implementation bill – then you’re safe and proceed further. Should you be short of funding, you can consider contacting other bodies that will benefit from your Contactless / NFC payments implementation. Those are banks and card issuers. Their profit is clear – more card transactions means more transaction fees for them. Try to negotiate some sort of support from your acquiring bank, try to contact other banks and ask whether they can support your project. Go and ask your local VISA/MC/AMEX/DISCOVERER office for marketing or incentive support. Depending on the quality of your project, the size of your business or actual situation in your market … you might be able to receive significant bonuses.

ImageStep five – blending all information into a business case. Now you know whether you can actually sell your goods for NFC-friendly prices, know the penetration ratio or Contactless / NFC devices in your markets and have completed a basic balance sheet. Now just add your expectations from a successful  Contactless / NFC payments project and ready you go … your business case is ready.

Having a business case for Contactless / NFC payments is just the very first step and there are many more to do before your business will start accepting Contactless / NFC payments and generate extra revenue / profit, but every journey begins with the first step.

Are you successful in your job?

ImageNot so long ago, during an CIO related event, I asked some of present CIOs a bit of a provoking question: “Are you successful in your job? If yes, how do you measure your success?” After a moment of silence, the answer came: “Sure I am successful, I am still keeping my job”. This KISS answer made me think about how could we measure one’s success. Due to my background I will focus on information technology leaders, but this question could be asked to any individual – manager, leader or contributor.

An CIO’s success could be measured in countless ways, but I believe the following areas count among most vital:

Functionality and stability of IT environment in one’s company
CIO’s ability to influence stakeholders outside of IT
CIO’s perception by his/her team

Functionality and stability of IT environment in one’s company sounds most easy, as both conditions could be measures and quantified – using appropriate KPIs. Unfortunately, there is no common standard for IT related KPIs, there are many different KPIs used across industries and areas. Historically given, many of used KPIs were of technical nature, perfectly readable and understandable by IT … but far less so by the business.  Just to name a few: average uptime (of whatever system), Incident resolution within Service level agreement, Number of incidents / escalations. The CIO needs to choose a set of performance indicators that will both reflect the state of IT infrastructure and services AND be readable by non-IT individuals.

 CIO’s ability to influence stakeholders outside of IT depends in the long run on one’s ability to deliver results and real value to one’s company. This will earn the CIO much needed respect across the management level and a firm starting point for discussions with CIO’s peers. Consistently delivering a functional and stable IT environment as well as projects on time and budget is the key for acceptance within the C-level suite. The ability to influence then depends heavily on the actual personality of the CIO, his/her experience and personal skills. Another strong point is CIO’s ability to build a bridge between IT and business – speaking language of both worlds. A distinct advantage would be for the CIO to have a seat in the board of directors, but it is not the seat that matters most, but the ability to catch the Board’s Ear.

CIO’s perception by his/her team might not be among a CIO’s priorities, but is more than vital. One cannot expect to continuously deliver results and value to the company without a strong and engaged team standing behind the CIO.  Personal, even psychology skills are needed to find and maintain a balance between the needs and expectations of IT guys (what is often a mixture of geeks, introverts, nerds and sworn fans of fantasy and sci-fi genres) and stakeholder’s expectations on a neatly running IT organization. Keeping team members motivated and keeping top talents is more difficult than it sounds,  different groups of IT employees require different approach. One example for many – an 2500 USD worth CISCO related training might be a great motivator for young tech oriented admins, but far less appealing for senior IT project professionals. Getting visibility in front of LOB senior managers might inspire that that senior IT project professional, but your senior information security officer would rather take a 20 miles long marathon then speak in front of (senior) public.

Are you successful in your job? Well, take your pick.

Engaging IT to business – reloaded

IT2BusinessIt was back in October last year when I wrote the original article Engaging IT to business. Through many discussions on LinkedIn or during various events where I participated, I came to the conclusion that my ideas presented in the article were just the beginning. I do not aspire to offer a complete and final concept, but some of ideas presented below might help you in your own voyage on engaging IT to business.

The key element behind the idea of engaging IT to business is the wish of IT managers to become partners to their business peers, of IT departments getting rid of the label of a cost centre and service provider “only” or of CIOs who wish to get a seat in the board.  Getting there is not easy, but I’d like to share a few ideas how to start the road to get there (… and back again).

The ball in on IT’s side. It is important to realise that it is IT that “would like to” be recognized as a partner to business, so it is IT that needs to be proactive and do the first (and several next) step. Opinions of your business peers won’t change all alone or because you wish so. Instead, IT needs to take the ball and work step by step to shift the existing paradigm. Listening to business, proactively seeking gaps to fill, taking the extra mile, generating IT driven revenue and  sharing with business might be right tools to earn “IT’s place in the sun”.

Listen to business. Sounds too simple, but in fact – this is the key to any IT initiative to engage with business. Business has is always in need to help and support, there are always sore points in need of attention or defunct processes in need of mending. Bad news is that very few of those aching issues are visible from the distance or advertised openly. It should be one of CIO’s top priorities to engage business peers in conversations trying to figure out what is bothering them. There are many different ways the CIO can take, staring from joining sales and marketing meetings, through spending a day in a week out of the HQ in the front (sales) lines, up to informal coffee events sponsored by IT. Taking an found issue as a starting point, IT should be able to mitigate pros and cons and prepare a plan how to solve it.

Proactivity is the key. Opportunities to show business that IT is actually a partner and can get things done will rarely appear out of nowhere.  In the contrary, it is IT that needs to take an proactive approach and create such opportunities. Taking a classic example … there is a new business initiative that has really the potential to make a difference, but it requires several changes in existing IT infrastructure, extra funds to buy a new server cluster and extra human resources supporting the whole idea. Considering costs, risk of negative impact to overall system stability and performance, tight time schedule for implementation and general negative perception of changes … IT usually states that this initiative / project cannot be done. But it takes not much more to come with an approach to evaluate and accept the risk of failure, find maybe a less traditional IT infrastructure concept and personal engagement within the IT department to actually say “YES” to business and make the initiative / project happen.

Take the extra mile. Requests from business are usually processed and issues or incidents solved. There difference is in customer experience as any job or task can be done well enough … or to a point of perfection.  IT should strive to take the extra mile as often as possible … not only fulfilling requests from business but rather exceeding their expectations. When asked to provide an analysis, add some extra statistical charts or add data for a larger period of time than requested. When there is a planned system downtime, makes sure that after all the systems  will be back online to check with key users if respective systems are running correctly. Should there be a repeating problem with an application regularly used, do not only solve that bug, but create some manuals or FAQs and offer in-house training to respective users.

 Generating IT driven revenue. Usually IT is supporting business processes and enabling other business units to create revenue. While this task is important, it still puts IT in the role of a service provider. IT can be presented very differently when there will be projects / initiatives sponsored and executed by IT that actually directly generate revenue. In addition to supporting your business to increase your company’s revenue, make and keep a commitment to identify, develop, get required acceptance, execute and support IT projects directly making money … at least once in a year. Staring from new payment methods, through increasing customer loyalty up to new digital products for direct sale … possibilities are endless.    

 Share with business. There are many decision made by IT that are effecting the entire company – main technology framework, BYOD, outsourcing, information security guidelines … .Inviting business managers to join the process of decision making for such projects / initiatives can bring valuable opinions, hints and ideas based on ‘real business’ experience as well as a strong feeling of engagement. Invite your business peers into respective steering committees,  create IT open days, creative IT workshops and informal meetings (Meet your IT procurement guy …). Get the buy-in from your peers to increase the acceptance.

Blinded by success.

4622851966_Blinded_By_Money_xlargeSome of you might know the story. Revenue is stable or rising, market share good as never before, your company is the leader of your respective segment. Shareholders are content and the board pleased with quarterly results. Some middle class managers or even one or two C – level execs suggest changes in the business model and point out facts and processes that are obsolete, but the general consensus is that there is no need to change anything as all is working well. Don’t fix what isn’t broken.

Sometime later (might be a mere few years) the situation is very different. Sales figures are dropping, market share declining and new competition attained the rank of market leader. Suddenly, there is high demand for innovations and growth initiatives, but the whole process till final execution takes too long to make a difference.

Result is very well written by Scott Anthony: “One of the most frequent challenges we observe in the field is that companies tend to radically underestimate the threat that disruptive change poses to their business.”

Now it is easy to say that the board should have listen to voices calling for action when there was time, but true is that at the time of success’s peak it is difficult to recognize patterns that can lead to disruptive change and decline of one’s business.

There are many ways how to avoid this kind of situation but work only when the company realizes that disruptive change is threatening its future. This is a crucial point as a disruptive change is rarely visible until it’s already there, what is often quite late to respond. Part of the problem is that some executives rather deny even the possibility that the company’s golden age could come to an end.

One way that has the potential to counter effects of disruptive changes is thinking and acting like the “golden age” is already over. Simple but effective, this way you will have the time and even resources to fund and develop initiatives and changes that will innovate your products / services and continuously increase your competitive potential.

Here are some simple steps to start such a process:

First and above all you need to allocate resources for this kind of initiative. Creating a distinct group for innovations, reserving some time in your existing organisation, creating a competence centre … the choice is up to you, but you need to make sure that there is time and money to fund it.

Create a spirit driving new ideas. Innovations or ideas for improvement will not emerge out of nowhere, but have to be created by people. People will not usually start to be creative just because the company announced a rally for innovations. This kind of spirit needs to be strongly announced and continuously supported by all levels of management. Reviews, boards of fame, financial awards, promotions … all this are tool to boost and promote the spirit of innovation.

Do not dismiss new concepts or ideas that are not “conform” with your company’s current strategy. Rather do the opposite, support all kind of weird and strange thoughts (think about it as out-of-the-box ideas) … as this is exactly what you are looking for – ideas and things that will flame customer’s interest, bring new (and high margin) products on the market and shoot you sky high on the market’s share.

Thinking ahead and improving your company’s competitive potential is the key to avoid or reduce damage taken by disruptive changes. To be blinded by the now-a-day’s success could prove to be a fatal mistake.