BT Innovation in the 21st Century
From statesmen to R&D scientists, from investment bankers to entrepreneurs, from sports commentators to gadget designers, everyone talks about innovation as a key requirement for future growth and prosperity.
In business sectors around the world, innovation is seen as a key brand differentiating factor with the ability to generate new brand leadership, create a whole new market or to transform an industry ? an overall brighter future of profitable success and a quantum leap forward from today.
Across multi-cultural societies, it is perceived by many as a necessity for human progress and a fundamental investment that will enhance and support the well-being and future lives of citizens. Yet if everyone is talking about it and investing in it, how come innovation success is not prevalent for all? What are the critical elements of undertaking the act of innovation that can accelerate some people beyond their wildest dreams of success, yet for others prove to be an ongoing life-task that faces a neverending set of barriers? What does it take in the 21st century to achieve successful innovation?
BT has long been regarded as a leading innovation company. Matt Bross, BT?s Chief Technology Officer, believes the company must continue to challenge itself to maintain it?s innovation leadership, ?BT must constantly innovate the way we innovate?. With growing recognition that innovation embraces so much more than R&D, invention and technology breakthroughs, the spotlight is now on how people and organisations harness the power of innovation across all socio-economic, political and cultural dimensions.
The drive to do this is global. From the US, Deborah Wince-Smith, President on the US Council for Competitiveness, has stated: ?The only driver for productivity growth in the US is our innovation capacity.?
From FTSE 100 companies in the UK and EU framework programmes, innovation is seen as:
It is not surprising, therefore, to learn that today it is the most quoted term in organisational missions, visions and strategies across the globe. But even if we resonate with the statement by Harvard Professor, Theodore Lewitt: ?Just as energy is the basis of life itself and ideas the source of innovation, so is innovation the vital spark of all human change, improvement and progress? - what is the ?Vital Spark? in the 21st Century?
If it is no longer the traditional R&D function or solely the domain of an entrepreneur, who are the new Innovation ?Superheroes? who will ignite the spark? And what are the 21st century infrastructures that will enable the spark in the global communications industry? Given that innovation has been proven to equate to growth and sustainable value, it is hardly surprising that all attention is focused upon ?unlocking? the key to how to best innovate from end to end within the value chain
This means that an organisation must focus on developing the best ?Innovation Continuum? possible. This is the first pre-requisite for successful innovation in the 21st Century. An ?Innovation Continuum? is the framework that underpins all innovation activity including all the processes and overall cycle of activity. It begins with a seed of an idea or a discovery, moves into research and development, is validated and articulated through rigorous strategic analysis and reality-proofed, and is then implemented, operationalised, tailored for channels and delivered to customers.
It touches all critical areas of the business and internal and external partnerships. BT?s innovation strategy is underpinned by a global innovation continuum which is a living organism of intelligence scouting, idea exchanges, rapid prototype development, strategic hot-housing, dynamic systems and a world class research programme with strategic venturing channels.
Working closely with global customers, academic research partners, strategic business partners and suppliers along each step of the Innovation Continuum, BT has amplified its innovation activity and results. BT?s Innovation Continuum is based on six key principles, required to create sustainable innovation along each part of the continuum within which it exists.
For BT, this is critical. BT is an incredibly innovative company with many major world first technology breakthroughs - but it is not enough. Right now, BT ? like many global communications companies - must innovate the way it innovates. That is a challenge ? a call to action not just for BT but also for the global IT networking industry, partners, suppliers and customers.
It means taking a long, hard look at every step across the innovation continuum ? from invention, research, analytics, design, architecture, development, implementation, operationalisation, channel delivery and customer engagement. It means constant re-innovation and re-examination of the product and service portfolio and supporting operational systems and processes. And it means that it is important not to be afraid of making radical decisions and spending money to make these dramatic and incremental changes.
Only through these actions will it be possible to get new services to market much faster and improving processes and application technologies to take the cost out of operations in a sustained way. Only through this will it truly open up a new world of innovation in the 21st Century.
The second pre-requisite is an enabling infrastructure that not only supports convergence but is the driving force and catalyst of it. BT?s 21st Century Network, 21CN, is the enabling infrastructure for sustainable innovation and growth.
Through the 21st Century Network (21CN) programme, BT will deliver its vision of a converged, multimedia world where customers can access any communications service from any device, anywhere ? and at broadband speed. Convergence will link the fixed and mobile worlds and the traditional IT and communications industries, helping BT to create new services for the way people live and work today.
21CN will transform BT?s networks by collapsing various networks into one converged multi-service network, delivering increased customer choice and control. BT will make exciting new services available to customers faster than has been possible before, as well as capturing cost savings. The 21CN transformation timetable begins with a five-year programme to underpin the next generation of converged, multimedia communications services. Mass migration of customers on to the new network will begin in the second half of 2006, with the majority due to be completed in 2009.
So how will 21CN achieve greater innovation success? By enabling faster, slicker, more ?Vital Sparks? right along the innovation continuum ? which will lead to people and organisations being able to create and bring to market products and services that customers truly want. But it is 21CN?s concept of ?reusable capabilities? ? the lego blocks to build and tailor products and services exactly to customer?s precise needs, when and where they want them that is the new core differentiator for successful innovation.
How? Because 21CN will empower customers to do this themselves. It is about putting the customer at the heart of the innovation continuum and giving the customer the ultimate ?customer experience? ? full freedom and choice to receive and create what they want, when they want and how they want. And this is at the core of the second pre-requisite of successful innovation in the 21st Century ? truly putting the customer at the heart of evolution and innovation.
21CN is about enabling the customer to transform dynamically with the times - and ensuring the customer is the ultimate innovation partner of choice throughout that evolution. The answer to the question who are the Innovation Superheros of the 21st Century? Our customers.
Things you didn?t know about BT and Innovation...
Facts about BT
Our strategic focus is to defend the traditional core of our business whilst aggressively growing our ?new wave? (i.e. ICT, mobility and broadband) business. Innovation in our portfolio, networks and systems has therefore never been more critical. And we are making good progress. Aside from the launching of 21CN trials successfully, BT has achieved:
Written by Gemma Harman,
Director of Strategy and Media,
BT Chief Technology Office
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7356 6747