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5 Posts authored by: EDWARD GOLDMAN

I’ve been blogging recently about how we as IT leaders can improve the way we innovate—something we need to do if we want to deliver transformative innovations that do more than just keep the lights on a little better.  I’ve identified the need to commit resources to innovation, create a culture that supports disciplined creativity and risk-taking, and define problems in ways that encourage transformational thinking.


Today, I’d like to share more about the process Intel IT uses for innovation, focusing on IT as an applied science. After all, in IT, we typically don’t design breakthrough technologies. We learn what technologies are available and on the horizon, and develop new ways of applying them to deliver business value.


At Intel, our corporate research arm, Intel Labs, runs an extensive program to create those breakthrough technologies. Within Intel IT, we use a similar model to help us apply those technologies and other innovations to create business value. We’ve established our own Intel IT Lab with our own innovation centers, and we follow a measured, disciplined process to move from idea to implementation—or trashcan, since not all ideas come to fruition.  We call our process the “Idea Pipeline.”

 

 

Idea_Pipeline Image.PNG

 

This picture shows the process steps used by the Intel IT Labs and the expected yields from each step through the idea pipeline.  We look at our yields through each of these steps as a way to measure our investments.

 

Intel IT Idea Pipeline_YT Image.png

 

Moving through these phases, we evaluate whether the research idea has enough perceived future value and determine if there is available technology available that we should look into more.  Then, we do the Proof of Technology and if the technology is not ready or we find that it doesn’t meet our needs, this is where the work stops.  Otherwise we assemble a team and prove the concept. We might or might not run a pilot. If the results are promising, transition to the appropriate team in IT happens and a project kicks off.

 

We expect low yield in the research phase, a middle range in proof of technology and proof of concepts and by the time we get to the transformation step, the yield should be high. If we see percentages too high at the first few steps, we know that we aren’t taking enough risk in what we are looking at to truly help the organization.

 

The Intel IT innovation centers are places where we can bring together people, ideas, technologies, and possibilities to increasing cross-organizational collaboration.  The IT innovations centers have as their motto: “The Place where Innovation is put into Action.”

 

Does your IT organization follow a formal ideal and innovation process? Do you have an IT Lab organization and or innovation centers? I’d like to hear what’s working for you.

 

Please follow me on Twitter.

 

Some additional recommendations:

 

As IT practitioners, we are often inundated with a well-known set of fire drills. Whether it is schedules, contracts, operations or just continually being asked to do more with less. Ultimately, we bear the administrative burden of the systems, services, and capabilities we establish.

 

It can be difficult to step back, take a deep breath, and reassess what we are doing and for whom we are doing it. With constant pressure on the present, it’s challenging to look into the past and understand the present to help inform the future.

 

800.jpgBut that’s exactly what we must do, especially if we want to be strategic and influential contributors of business success. We must shift our attitude and our role, from systems administrators and problem solvers to higher value orchestrators and consultants.

 

This requires a skill and responsibility that is sometimes forgotten in the tyranny of the urgent: Listening.

 

Users are our customers. But amidst the chaos of systems and services and trouble tickets, it can be easy to lose sight of their desires and preferences, challenges and opportunities—all of which are continually evolving.

 

We must work hard to understand our users and learn from them. Only then can we solve the right problems and deliver the right capabilities—to the right user community in the right way at the right time.

 

Intel IT formalized its “listening” process four years ago with an annual Voice of the User (VoU) survey. The survey helps us assess employee preferences and satisfaction, and the intelligence derived helps us determine not only our IT priorities and goals, but also the best approach for achieving them.

 

You can read more about the VoU survey and how we are building stronger bridges with our users in the Intel IT Business Review, which is now available in a mobile app.

 

The VoU is an invaluable tool that is helping us become more effective and strategic over time. We dive deeper and gain more insight every year, giving us a much richer picture of the work we do on behalf of our user community.

 

Beyond baseline satisfaction and preference data, we can use the VoU to take the pulse of different roles, geographies, and teams. We can identify and track trends. We can learn more about the value and usability of emerging technologies. And we can evaluate our past efforts and investments, and finely tune our current and future activities.

 

For Intel IT, listening is one of the first and most important steps to meeting the needs of our business. It helps us evaluate the past, inform the present, and aim for the future our customers demand and deserve. Learn more by downloading the Intel IT Business Review mobile app. And please reach out to me on Twitter or in the comment section below to share your best practices and experiences.

 

I’m all ears. Follow me here in IT Peer Network or on Twitter @edlgoldman.

 

Ed Goldman

Enterprise IT Segment CTO

As I look back at my career (no it’s not over ), I think on the important lessons I have learned. When I first started in IT, my first two promotions happened without any real involvement by me. I worked hard, did my job and my manager promoted me. I remember thinking this was great, but it was really my boss who was responsible for me being promoted.

 

All of a sudden, I noted that others who worked just as hard, were also getting promoted around me. As a result I wasn’t moving up as quickly as before, comparatively speaking. I began to spend time trying to understand why this was happening. I hadn’t changed anything in what I was doing — I was still working hard, arriving on time and working well with others. So it took me a while to figure it all out.


I saw that these newly promoted individuals were taking an active role in their careers by seeking out new opportunities and new ways to demonstrate their skills to a wider audience. They were taking on projects that others didn't want and delivering results.

 

I was not doing that.


Truthfully, the thought had never even occurred to me. To reach out and ask for work that was not inherently mine wasn’t something that I intuitively pursued.


IT LEadership.jpg

From this realization, I started to look for these opportunities. I viewed it as a way for me to expand my knowledge and demonstrate the work I knew I could perform. Taking the time to meet with others, I focused on how I could help my surrounding colleagues and managers, and just as important, how they could help me. In this way, I connected with people that provided me with mentorship and guidance throughout my career.

 

The hard lesson that I ultimately learned was that my career was my own responsibility. I had to take an active role by seizing opportunities. It wouldn't be in my interest to wait around and play the selection game. I couldn't expect for things to just happen.

 

For me, this change came about when I took the initiative to take on the projects that no one else wanted — the assignments that came with no fanfare. However, these menial tasks were still key to actual delivery, albeit their success was not easy to measure. In such cases, failure was definitely an option. But while I thought that failure would mean early termination from the company, the truth was that it was only through failure that I was able to learn so much so quickly. As long as corporate policies were followed and we learned something during the process, our “failures” on a project would never be the cause of getting fired.     

 

As I've worked over the years, I have come to a profound discovery regarding career promotion. When you start to climb the ladder, your boss is the one that promotes you. But as you reach the middle rungs of the corporate hierarchy, it’s actually your peers that promote you. And as you get closer to the upper reaches of executive level leadership, it is the peers in your specific industry or executives outside your current path that are the ones that move you up the ladder.

 

More often than not, this happens much sooner if you get directly involved rather than simply being in the right place at the right time. 

 

Good luck with the climb and connect with me on Twitter to let me know what you’ve learned along the way.

I just finished Words of Radiance, book two of The Stormlight Archive series by Brandon Sanderson (now have to wait for book three). In this series, the main characters all have an oath to which they adhere and to which they must commit themselves in order to be part of this special group. The oath goes like this:


“Life before Death.
Strength before Weakness.
Journey before Destination.”

 

sdi journey.jpgOne part of this oath, “Journey before Destination,” made me think about some of the challenges IT organizations face in today's world. While those of us who work in the industry to provide IT solutions care a lot about the destination, the solutions are not always there for the journey!

 

Today, I talk to lots of customers about the concept of software-defined infrastructure (SDI). SDI really is the destination. It’s where organizations can get to a hybrid cloud and then control workloads through an end-to-end orchestration layer that allows you (the customer) to institute and enforce policies for your application workloads.

What a great idea! When I ran IT infrastructure in the past, this is exactly where I wanted to be, from an infrastructure perspective. To think I’d have the ability to manage and optimize my resources in a way that requires fewer people to control and manage. And that I could enforce and comply with the controls we had in place while utilizing all my resources to their optimal level. This is the dream of most IT infrastructure folks.

 

So where is SDI today, really?


Ultimately, we need to think about where we are on that journey toward SDI. Most organizations today, to some degree, could complete these steps, as the tools exist.

 

  • Virtualized resources with compute, storage, and networking (all in different levels of maturity): check
  • Created pools of resources with various products available to do this: check
  • Provided some level of telemetry (information, from the hardware to the software, on health and performance of the platform): check
  • Automated and orchestrated the use of these resources to ensure policies and workload management: check
  • Managed service levels through IT service management software: check

 

Sounds like it’s all in place, right? Well, kind of. The challenge here is that we either need to totally accept a vertical solution with one or two add-ons, or we need to assemble it ourselves. On both fronts, some integration is necessary and granted, many vertical solutions are not yet complete. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t some good ones out there; rather, that some glue is necessary to make it all work.

 

The truth is that while the destination matters, it’s important to think about the journey to create a winning strategy for SDI. Innovation is necessary and plays a huge role in that strategy looking forward, and also in our efforts to “create the glue.” Yet IT budget allocations are still heavily weighted toward maintenance efforts. Forrester reported in a 2013 survey of IT leaders in more than 3,700 companies that respondents estimated that they spend an average of 72 percent on “keep-the-lights-on” functions to support ongoing maintenance, while only 28 percent of the money went toward new projects.[i] This is still consistent with many of the organizations that I talk to in IT.

 

Ultimately, the SDI journey is really where the rubber meets the road. And for most enterprises day to day, the journey is still underway.

 

So where is your organization on that journey?

 

Ed Goldman

@EdLGoldman


Be sure to visit the Intel® IT Center to get the latest resources and expert insights, and check out the planning guide to find out how you can optimize the data center to move toward SDI.



[i] Bartels, Andrew, Christopher Mines, Joanna Clark. Forrsights: IT Budgets and Priorities in 2013. Forrester (April 25, 2013). http://www.forrester.com/Forrsights+IT+Budgets+And+Priorities+In+2013/fulltext/-/E-RES83021?isTurnHighlighting=false&highlightTerm=Forrsights:%2520IT%2520Budgets%2520And%2520Priorities%2520In%25202013

I just spent the past week at the Intel Capital Global Summit. It was an excellent event where companies interested in innovation, venture capitals, and startups met to network and discuss new trends. Overall, this experience served as proof that innovation is still alive and well around the world.

 

If you have seen any of my past blogs on the topic of innovation, you will know that I believe there are three pillars necessary for innovation:

 

  1. Commitment: It is important that innovation is championed through executive support and ultimately with an investment of funding and resources.
  2. Clarity: An understanding of which specific problems need to be solved and how to fail fast to eventually get to the solution is vital for innovation.
  3. Culture: The organization needs to be supported in the area of failure. It is through trial and error along with the eventual learnings that are derived from failure that encourages innovation.

 

It was exciting to see all three demonstrated very clearly at the Intel summit.

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Innovation Starts with Executive Understanding…

 

Through a series of organized meet and greet sessions, I had the opportunity to talk with many companies at the event. It was incredible to see the level of clarity demonstrated by the CEOs and executives of some of these companies. Plans of development and go-to-market strategies were well defined and clear. Additionally, these company leaders displayed an exceptional understanding of what problems they’re working on and the details on how they’re solving them.

 

But in every one of these cases, there was a common belief that the real innovation begins once the customer gets a hold of new technology. This is the point at which true understanding and the collision of ideas can occur. The specific problems are discovered as customers bring additional information to the discussion that can help companies hone in on legitimately scalable solutions.

 

…And a Company Culture That Embraces Strategic Change

 

Throughout the event, companies also met with each other to discuss how technology can be used to enhance solutions and better address some of the real problems faced by customers. It was apparent from the discussions that all of the CEOs were passionate about solving customer problems with the technologies that they are using.

 

This concept of ideas coming together to enhance and evolve a solution is very well outlined in Stephen Johnson’s video on the "slow hunch.” Rare is the occasion when someone conceives a brilliant idea in the shower (think Doc Brown in “Back to the Future”). More common is the process of a great idea starting from a seed, growing through a wide range of interactions, and eventually developing into something that is key to individual or company success.

 

Interested in innovation and the world of venture capital? Consider the Intel Capital Global Summit for next year. It can prove to be a significant gateway to network with these innovative companies. See how they can help you and how you can help them.

 

See you there,


Ed

 

Follow me on Twitter at @EdLGoldman and use #ITCenter to continue the conversation.