5 Reasons Consumer Innovations Outpace the Enterprise

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With all of the killer apps and data, social systems, creative visualization and different devices out there in the consumer space, why we aren’t making more and faster progress in adopting some of them in the companies where we work?  If I can use Wolfram Alpha on my iPhone to ask a question why can’t I get the same kinds of information on my phone to support my business decision making?

I had the great fortune to explore this question in more detail recently at the Computerworld BI & Analytics Perspectives conference (entire presentation on slideshare). I shared a story and several examples and then offered some ideas for how we might be able to break this logjam and get some new decision making tools into our organizations.

I asked my colleague Henry Hwangbo for his thought on the subject.  I view Henry as one of the few people who have a deep understanding of both sides of this chasm.  He is an avid experimenter and is always coming up with new perspectives on how to leverage open source tools, data visualization and new UI concepts and open APIs.  He is also a world-class enterprise architect and has designed and directed the build of many successful financial services and insurance systems.

Here are the 5 reasons Henry and I came up with that impede corporate progress on adopting consumer driven innovations:

IT has the Wrong Skill Sets

Real or perceived, companies think they don’t have the skills to take advantage of new tools like Ruby.  We’re surprisingly also finding a lack of web development skill-sets in large technology and integration firms often used by our clients.  Web developers are more expensive and don’t necessarily gravitate towards enterprise-scale services companies.  Also, not surprisingly, much of the great Web development talent tends to live in large metro areas which poses challenges to many corporate headquarters and large enterprise IT shops.

Cloud Services are Perceived Insecure

Companies don’t want to expose what they are doing or use “other peoples stuff.”  Sending data to places like Google are certainly a concern, but overall there are information privacy issues which more folks are interested in tackling or dealing with at any level so we never go there.

Open Source is Mistrusted

Who knows what evil lurks in the code?  This is driven more from a support perspective.  Folks in IT want to be able to point an finger at someone if things go wrong or they need help.

Governance is Too Restrictive

Innovators have difficulties getting “non standard” tools approved.  IT governance often operates at a level away from the hands-on and faster moving innovation done at the true development level.  Enterprise folks are looking for ease of maintenance and support versus innovation or anything perceived as “cutting edge.”

Prototypes are Under Appreciated

Leveraging open web tools, data and APIs is faster but many companies won’t take on the risk of failure.  Priority is usually given to projects geared to fix legacy and bloated environments.  Still pockets of innovation being done, but are not given the same sort of focus as the system which supports the majority of the business.

These are just some thoughts.  What ways have your organizations embraced rapid, web-centric consumer-driven innovations?

cc licensed flickr photo shared by Alex Osterwalder

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  • Deepak Damodaran

    Hi Chris, agree with all your points. In addition, I think there is limited leadership in enterprise world when it comes to innovation. True leadership that drives innovation. What makes Apple come up with one innovative (and game changing) product after another? Well, am sure there are many reasons. But one key one is their culture to create what Steve Jobs calls “insanely great” products. It comes from him. I blogged about this a while back. Thought I will share - http://sochvichar.blogspot.com/2005/03/apple-insanely-great-product-design.html.

  • http://twitter.com/chrisonea Chris Lockhart

    Great points. I tend to think there is also an element of organizational overhead and resistance to change. By that I’m referring to the disruptive nature of innovation. Folks who’ve spent their lives developing expertise around a vendor product or platform have established credibility, importance, and ‘guru’ status that feeds the ego. Anything that upends the established order will necessarily reduce their influence. I think there is an ingrained fear of the unknown or things that are perceived as being unknowable or best left to the young guns. This manifests itself as opposition to newfangled ways of doing things. “This is how it’s been done for 20 years! And I’m the corporate IT EXPERT in this area! So I know the right way to do it!”

    Say hi to Henry for me.

  • Dave

    Hi Chris,

    The world has turned inside out. Interestingly all these web 2.0 tools are inspiring grassroots ‘rogue’ efforts outside the normal conservative governance you describe.

    That being said, I think web 2.0 needs to evolve from tools to solutions. I think it is incumbent upon us software companies to re-imagineer enterprise applications. It will be easier for businesses to consume 2.0 as part of integrated solutions that they would be familiar with.


  • http://globalhumancapital.org csrollyson

    @chris Thanks for a refreshing piece. What hits me, that you’ve posed the question, is that from an org role perspective, I.T. is tasked with mitigating risk (avoiding “downside”) - not capitalizing on opportunity. It’s their DNA. SBU chiefs take risks because they are compensated for upside. Orgs that want I.T. to experiment will have to align rewards with that. I’m not sure that would be productive. Having strong enterprise architecture culture and teams would go a long way in enabling mission critical apps to interoperate with pickets on innovation/risk in SBUs. In some firms, risk-taking I.T. could work. Do you have some examples?