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Innovating in the era of instant obsolescence

hi-tech.jpgWe’re in the era of instant obsolescence: can you innovate fast enough to keep up? Can you keep up, when faster is the new fast?

In the last few years, I’ve interviewed CFO’s and CIO’s with companies that have achieved rapid market growth, all of them customers of SAP. This includes such global success stories as J. Crew, Body Armour, Adobe, Purdue Pharma, Hunt Oil, Lennox, Jazz Semiconductor, Merit Energy, and others. SAP has had me in to keynote a wide variety of events, and host panel discussions with these senior executives. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to explore what innovative companies do in rapidly changing markets.

I recently lead such a discussion, both online and at SAPPHIRE 07 in Atlanta, under the theme, Velocity, Agility, Complexity, and Flexibility: The Four Key Drivers for Competitive Advantage. I interviewed CIO’s and senior IT executives with four high-growth hi-tech companies: Entegris, Intervoice, Avocent and Citrix (and it Atlanta, Checkfree.)

One of my opening comments: “We’re in the era of absolutely instant obsolescence. We can’t afford to take a week to roll up the sales numbers … we have to know what’s happened in the last 10 minutes.”

All of these organizations are faced with the challenge and opportunity of the high-velocity economy. Rapid growth, collapsing product lifecycles, and the need for a focus on” time to market.”

They provided wonderful insight into how they innovate in order to stay ahead of the market, manage global supply chains, build a cohesive, collaborative culture, and provide for real time insight into their business.

What do these organizations do in terms of innovation? Several things:

  • operational excellence is a major focus
  • there are high expectations for growth, and an IT infrastructure that enables such growth
  • they have a need for instant, need driven relationships with their partners
  • they focus on rapid agility for new market demands
  • they are religious on “fast time to market”
  • they focus on quick marshalling of resources to accomplish velocity
  • they provide for instant scalability, given market volatility and rapid change

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