Tag Archives: SMAC

Key Considerations for Managing Innovation

Innovation is critical for every organization, but it is complex and can be very confusing, too. Poor innovation management and ineffective execution are among the key reasons causing innovation failures in organizations.

Many companies lack well-defined innovation strategy and alignment with business strategy, resulting in poor innovation delivery. While it takes time to build the innovation culture, companies must leverage the startup ecosystem, capabilities of partners to augment the innovation gaps and emerging technologies effectively to deliver innovation faster. Innovation silos within the companies are key impediments that dilute innovation and generate poor innovation results.

It is the time for companies to get honest and acknowledge innovation gaps, prioritize top factors affecting innovation and develop clear innovation strategy and plans that are well-aligned with business strategy. This article covers key considerations, describes the current state of innovation within financial services and the insurance industry and provides recommendations for effective innovation delivery.

Balancing Innovation, Startups and Emerging Technologies

Today, there is lots of buzz on emerging technologies, startups and innovation. While the business environment, economic conditions, political situation and core capabilities of many companies have not changed dramatically over the past year, nevertheless the innovation agenda has taken the front seat in almost every organization.

The big question remains: How effectively are companies managing innovation?

Are companies focusing on business innovation or technology innovation or a combination? Which are the proven models for innovation that deliver results? Is partnering with startups sufficient to drive innovation? Which emerging technologies have higher potential for innovation?

See also: Don’t Just Indulge in “Innovation Theater”  

Well, there are no straight and simple answers to these questions. What matters today is: There need to be serious attempts of organizations toward driving innovation, commitment by senior stakeholders, collaborative culture across teams, alignment between top-down and bottom-up innovations, bridging innovation silos within organization and focus on customer-centricity.

Business Values Are Driving Innovation Initiatives

In my interaction with senior business and IT stakeholders of leading financial services companies in the last few months, one thing has emerged clearly: that business values and outcomes are the most
critical element in getting innovation funding. I have met CIOs of leading insurance companies who have expressed concerns about getting buy-in from the business team for business cases as
one of the key hurdles in delivering innovation. While a majority of innovation efforts are still technology-driven or technology-led, only a portion carries real potential to disrupt the business or push the organization to a rapid growth trajectory. Many organizations are still focusing on incremental innovation, while many others are burdened with operational priorities and legacy challenges.

The good news is that financial services and insurance companies are not fearing experimentation. The partnership with startups, the pace of pilot projects using emerging technologies and the participation of companies in industry events, technology conferences and startup events has grown significantly in recent times. Many financial companies are sponsoring hackathons and are welcoming innovation of all types. A good number of companies within financial services and the insurance industry have already partnered with fintech and insurtech and are clearly finding value. The hunt for innovation is furious. The FinTech, InsurTech influence is pushing companies to innovate faster.

Technologies Enabling Innovation Within Financial Services

SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud) technologies that were new a few years ago have become a new normal, with high adoption rate across industries. Emerging technologies include blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics process automation (RPA), Internet of Things (IoT), augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). However, companies are being pragmatic about adopting these technologies.

For example, while it is true that in the last three years more than $1 billion of investment has gone into blockchain technologies alone, with 90-plus companies being part of blockchain consortia across 24-plus countries (according to recent World Economic Forum findings), many companies (insurers, banks and other financial companies) still struggle to identify suitable, viable use cases. The technical complexities and shortage of skills are another big hurdle for adoption of emerging technologies such as blockchain.

While some of these technologies are still evolving, technologies such as AI and RPA are moving faster in terms of adoption within financial services and the insurance industry. For example, AI-enabled chatbot and robo-advisers are moving beyond delivering basic conversational response to enabling channel expansion, enabling cross selling, targeting new segments, delivering training and enabling end-to-end transaction processing within the financial services industry. RPA technologies are also gaining popularity and are in use within financial services and insurance companies, helping
companies automate mundane, repetitive, manual, rule-based tasks or processes. The adoption rate and focus on IoT technologies has been hampered by increased fear of companies toward cyber security risks after various ransomware attacks in the recent past. AR and VR technologies are still hunting for viable use cases within the financial services industry amid the changing shapes and characteristics of AR/VR devices. Emerging technologies are the key enablers for delivering innovation and cannot be ignored any more.

Bridging the Gaps and Making a Balance With Innovation

While every company has a well-defined business strategy and IT strategy that are reviewed periodically, many lack a well-defined innovation strategy. It is time for companies to revisit their innovation strategy, align it to business strategy and make it an integral part of the operating model. The innovation silos, poor governance, complex organizational structure, lack of funding,
talent gaps and organizational politics are a few known elements that hinder innovation delivery. Only a few innovation-driven companies take tangible actions to overcome these challenges and
work toward building an innovation-centric culture. Agility, experimentation, customer validations, pivots, failures and talent development are integral parts of innovation delivery, and
companies that understand that, will measure innovations regularly, reward teams and encourage open innovation.

See also: Pursue Innovation or Transformation?  

While corporate venturing, partnership with startups and acquisitions are some methods to fast-track innovation efforts and mitigate risks, without addressing the root cause that hinders innovation, companies are just postponing the real problems. Startups are a good catalyst for innovation, but many companies merely leverage them as a reference model or mitigation element, which they think they can mimic, buy or obtain through partnership using brand and financial muscles. If companies find many gaps with the existing innovation model, they must explore partnership and acquisition of appropriate startups seriously and integrate them effectively into the companies’ ecosystem to ignite innovation delivery.

Business model innovations that are market- or industry-driven typically deliver successful innovations that are disruptive. Companies that bring together the best elements of
business and technology (talent, people, vision, insights, partners) at the right time, collaborate effectively internally and externally, learn from failures and involve customers in every stage of the innovation life cycle are the ones that are most successful in innovation delivery. In addition, emerging technologies offer numerous opportunities for companies to fast track innovation efforts when coupled with the right business case. Companies must balance the innovation, startups’ influence and the power of emerging technologies for competitive advantage and market leadership.

5 Questions That Regulators Must Ask

Fast growth and disruptive strategies make the likes of Uber, Airbnb and Lending Club a vanguard of young, fundamentally digital companies that are changing the way people travel, save, learn, eat, pay, lend—and more. Typically positioned as alternatives, they offer, among other things, financial services without being banks, car services without being taxi companies and somewhere to stay without being hotels.

In other words, the companies don’t play by established industry rules. And that’s the reason regulators and courts in a number of countries struggle to make sense of the changed industry ecosystems they oversee as they try to determine whether to permit or prohibit these digital disruptors. We believe the choice doesn’t have to be black or white: Regulators will want to enable the potential of these digitally contestable markets to deliver efficiency and innovation, while minimizing risks for consumers and the burden of adjustment for incumbents. The question is, how should they approach this difficult task?

The entrepreneurs who create digitally disruptive companies are routinely guided by a number of related strategic questions. We believe oversight bodies can use similar questions to arrive at appropriate regulatory responses. Here we suggest five:

1. How can we better serve customers’ needs and wants?

Many of the new digital business models work by putting underemployed talents or assets—like spare rooms or underutilized cars—to productive use. These business models usually won’t fit into traditional industry categories, such as “hotels” or “taxis.” Consequently, to make sense of them, regulators should fully consider the perspective of the consumer, setting aside purely industry sector approaches and taking a market view—the market for overnight stays or for travelling within a city, for instance. This way, they can support the successful operation of the market as a whole, namely balancing the many different outcomes demanded by consumers, including price, quality, availability, choice and safety.

Doing so will enable regulators to make a sober and impartial assessment of a new player’s potential to improve or upset this balance. Ruling out new players from the start simply because they don’t fit an existing industry definition could deny consumers better or cheaper ways of fulfilling their needs and wants. Worse, a start-up whose activities fall outside the realm of regulation could decide to enter an unregulated “shadow” sector that could ultimately create even greater trouble for incumbents and consumers. The recent rise of the so-called shadow banking sector should give consumers and regulators alike pause for thought.
In practice, regulators may be constrained by existing laws; they can, however, start the conversation about how regulation will need to adapt.

2. Are we considering all the competition?

Within a digitally contestable market (for example, the market for payments) new entrants very often straddle multiple industries. A good example is Apple Pay, a new way of paying for things with an Apple device. It has the potential to reinvent in-store and mobile transactions, simultaneously disrupting the telecom, financial services and retail industries. The market for wearable biometric technology is another example, bringing together high-tech, mobile and healthcare services within accessories and apparel that needs to be demonstrably safe for personal use.

As digital markets run beyond industry boundaries, regulators in different industries will need to collaborate with one another to catch up. Collaboration between regulatory bodies, where appropriate, may be both necessary and desirable—not only to execute current responsibilities but also to create common frameworks that encourage businesses to invest in digitally contestable markets. This approach can drive growth and productivity for the economy as a whole.

3. Are we thinking globally?

Just as digital disruptors don’t conform to traditional industry definitions, neither do they confine their ambitions within national borders. Mobile apps can work in the same way the world over as long as there is unfettered Internet access, and providers want to back them with consistent services. Moreover, customer expectations exhibit a ratchet effect. If it’s possible to use a mobile app to arrange a ride in London, why not in any other city? Why should a consumer’s experience of VoIP services from the same provider vary from country to country?

The work of regulators will increasingly depend on international collaboration. National bodies should actively align their work programs to increase the evidence base, accelerate the uptake of “next practice” and coordinate regulatory responses where it makes sense to do so in the interests of consumers.

4. Where can we experiment?

Digital disruptors don’t just compete in existing markets—they explore, create, define and shape new markets. Take Postmates, a San Francisco startup launched in 2011 that has built its business model on the entire process involved in “getting things,” including queuing, purchasing and delivering. Consumers and businesses can use the company’s app to arrange for a “Postmate”—an individual with spare time and wheels—to buy and hand-deliver any item within a city in less than an hour for a distance-based fee starting at $5. Using technology to combine elements of the retail, courier, concierge and postal sectors, the company is opening up a market for integrated convenience services previously available only to the affluent. Postmates can now be found in 13 metropolitan areas in the U.S. and has inspired similar services in Europe. It is also developing a merchant program to enable local businesses to initiate deliveries to customers and establish virtual stores within the Postmates app.

Disruptive businesses don’t wait for market potential to be proved before they act—and neither should regulators. While regulators will always base their oversight activities on deliberative, comprehensive assessments, today they also need to become as agile as the new players to react quickly to events, or even anticipate them. Digital tools and techniques can help.
One example: A/B testing, frequently used by digital disruptors to run multiple fast experiments on small samples of their customer base. This enables them to refine and improve proposed changes to the online user experience—design, offerings, prices—before rolling them out in full. While taking care to secure the consent of participants, regulators could harness techniques like these to test regulatory adaptations. If a market’s participants innovate and succeed through speedy knowledge of what works and what doesn’t, why shouldn’t that market’s enabling framework benefit in the same way?

5. Do we know what’s around the corner?

Digitally contestable markets often catch regulators by surprise. The head of the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority called digital disruptors “a Schumpeterian gale” sweeping across the economy. To harness the power of this storm of creative destruction, regulators will have to do more than simply react to change. They also need to be prepared before markets are upended.
To prepare effectively, they should make renewed use of horizon-scanning activities to spot systemic risks and emerging trends. When postal agencies (and their regulators) were debating the competitive merits of “last-mile” delivery companies, did they really envisage the breadth of service integration that players like Postmates would provide? Regulatory agencies will also need to develop techniques that encompass new technologies, encourage innovative business models, and explore new and more effective policy tools.

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Getting Started

The level of uncertainty generated by digitally contestable markets is unprecedented. New market dynamics are rapidly altering the boundaries and methods of oversight. Regulators will need to build new capabilities if they are to ask and meaningfully answer the five critical questions. They can start in three areas:

1. Talent: They should recruit people with experience in startups, to acquire the range of skills and mindsets needed to cope with fast-changing markets. Agencies should also ensure they have employees who are well-acquainted with disruptive technologies, whether through their work or simply in daily life.

2. Technology: To inform and enhance decision making, regulators should become comfortable with employing digital technology, including the “SMAC” of social, mobile, analytics and cloud. In particular, they should make full use of the intelligent data collection tools available today, including consumer apps such as Field Agent, as well as the burgeoning Industrial Internet of Things. Their goal should be to improve decision making using an evidence-based and data-driven approach. Beyond that, big data analytics can help them more accurately predict changes in customer and regulatory demand.

3. Tactics: To better anticipate and meet regulatory challenges, there are some no-regret steps regulators can take. For example, they can undertake “social listening” via Twitter, LinkedIn and other conversation spaces; this will help them identify future market players and spot market trends. Regulators should also participate in industry “hackathon” events to learn about the challenges entrepreneurs and innovators are currently facing, and even employ their own open, problem-solving events—physical or digital—to understand current concerns and explore potential solutions.

Digital innovation hasn’t changed the objective of regulation: promoting consumer welfare. But how to do it—developing and applying rules that deliver efficient and equitable outcomes—has become more complex and difficult. In economies increasingly populated by digital disruptors, the first step for regulators is to begin to question, think and act like the companies they oversee.

This article was originally published in Outlook, Accenture’s online journal of high-performance business. It is available here

Read more about digitally contestable markets here and ecosystem collaboration here.