Driving Innovation at Scale has been a key topic at events for the last few years but remains a huge challenge for organisations. How can large enterprises behave more like digital natives, rapidly improving speed to market and the efficacy of their BAU activities whilst creating a culture of innovation to avoid disruption?
To try and help provide some answers we hosted a roundtable dinner with 18 senior executives (CIOs, CTOs and CDOs) from a range of FTSE 250 companies as well as a tech start-up attempting to scale rapidly and an ex-Google Executive now launching his own start-up. So, we had a fantastic range of experience and opinions around the table.
To kick-off the evening, our guest speaker Jon Davies, Director of Digital at Vodafone shared the successes and challenges of the telecoms giant’s digital transformation programme. Jon outlined how they have rolled out a successful Scaled Agile engineering team and an awarding-winning DevOps transformation to enable rapid deployments to their newly architected platforms. But the real challenge, and secret to the success, has been the work on people, culture and onsite collaboration that has been so transformational for them over the last couple of years.
The top five takeaways from the discussion that followed were:
1. It’s not really about the technology. It’s about creating a culture of change, collaboration and innovation. It was a key point from Jon but it was almost universally agreed upon and was a common theme of the evening. Finding the right people is key. Outside of London, it’s hard to find them. In London, it’s hard to retain them!
2. From a technology point of view, a DevOps culture and a vision for your architecture that enables rapid speed to market is vital. That’s something that you need to chip away at. Some companies have managed to move from high-risk bi-annual deployments to weekly or daily ones. That’s been transformational but it’s taken time.
3. Demonstrating value to the CFO and the C-suite can be challenging. Most companies are not mature enough to have moved away from traditional accounting, project-based mentalities with business cases and KPIs. Moving to a product mentality via value stream mapping and The Lean Startup concept of Innovation Accounting, to place value on learning and to validate progress, is aspirational but an area where people need help. The tech start-ups do this naturally.
4. Google are world class at building a culture of innovation. For their critical business processes they relentlessly break down the stages and figure out how to be more innovative. New hires are often overwhelmed at the culture of innovation. But they are fanatical at it and, importantly, this was focussed across the business and not specific to digital, IT or engineering.
5. Digital natives are not feeling the same pain as traditional businesses. They are able to move fast with their platforms, pivot and scale. They understand the value of their product streams and fund constantly and appropriately with outstanding analytics. The challenge that connects them to the legacy businesses is access to talent. They have to scale fast as they work through challenges of funding rounds and need to attract talent to get through the work required to scale. But the age-old mantra to help companies behave more like digital natives is probably a good way to think.
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