The Need for Digital Innovation Platforms

I want to offer some thoughts that need us all involved in innovation to think about as we finish out 2018.

If you are frustrated with your current innovation process then read on. If you are not, then simply “click away” and certainly my best wishes by ignoring a very changing innovation world that we are all undergoing.

The reality is we are all moving towards becoming “Digital Enterprises”. Digital transformation is deepening into an enterprise-wide movement. and is modernizing how companies work.

As these Digital Enterprises effectively adapt and grow in an evolving digital economy, then it is clear that innovation certainly needs to be part of this but is it digitally ready? I think not. Much of the current innovation process you are currently working with is a Dinosaur, it should have disappeared long ago. Can we manage innovation the way many still are?

Innovation, in my view and many others, is rapidly becoming even more complex. Risks are actually rising not falling. Products continue not to meet customer needs in multiple ways. Without the “connected digital difference,” products are remaining limited in their appeal. Innovation is struggling to really perform and unleash breakthrough products due to many ‘inbuilt’ inhibitors. We need a radical redesign of the innovation process and that is becoming full connected up and have a distinct digital thread running through it. We need to think about complete digital innovation solutions in the future.

We are seeing many digitally aware organizations like Apple, Amazon, Salesforce all recognizing their future innovation is reliant on innovation and digital to be tied at the hip, wedded together in a design that builds towards satisfying customer needs. Applying technology application to innovation opportunities needs a platform thinking approach.

Embedded software is becoming more important in value than the physical product

Embedded software is becoming essential within products; from shoes, household appliances, cars, travel etc. The relevance of this innovation plus digital is not just for providing improved customer satisfaction in today’s market and its needs but allows for evolving these digital products for the future.

Future products are increasingly engaging the consumer as they evolve and respond to “data” and knowledge supplied back. It is evolving product solutions that can be more sustaining, delivering increased functionality, usability, and utility and offering greater value to all involved.

According to a past report  “Mastering Product Complexity” some time back from Roland Berger, the complexity of products more than doubled during 15 years and it continues to accelerate. In the quote from Roland Berger “complexity, manifests itself in the demand for a wider variety of specialized products across multiple manufacturing industries

To deliver on this “digital innovation” without a doubt, the whole process of our innovation management has to be digitally connected up, to manage this from concept through to product end of life. It is evaluating across the full innovation value chain we can extract greater innovation. What is essential is a digital cohesion, not one that maintains our fractured, broken into parts and current innovation process.

As we connect up more, we are accessing the best sources of new business opportunities through gaining knowledge, discovering fresh insights and building increasing relevancy into our product solution understanding. We are in an ever-increasing engaged world of collaborators and customer feedbacks to build concept designs, test prototype reactions, investigate product use and explore customer satisfaction, all helping to improve product application and deliver closer to customer needs or provide evolution in innovation application.

Today we are poorly equipped to handle cross-discipline collaborations,

We do remain siloed on much within the innovation process, our knowledge often stays trapped, we can’t tap into expertise because it ‘remains’ invisible, we struggle to show progress as it is locked into manual processes, all requiring significant effort to be extracted.

If we see the need to change this, then through a digital transformation of the innovation process that works across the complete enterprise needs to be found and put into place. Innovation cannot afford to be excluded from being part of the “digital enterprise” we are moving towards, yet it needs specific solutions for this to happen. We do not offer solutions that achieve a complete solution, we still have a broken innovation system where discreet parts fail to talk to other parts.

We need to think this new digital innovation structure to have both internal disciplines in solutions but also designed for extended enterprise collaborations so “ecosystems of innovations” can finally take hold.

Do the PLM providers hold the innovation key?

At present, the best solution available to deliver a complete, inter-connected innovation process or system seems to be lying in the hands of the product lifecycle players under PLM. Siemens, Dassault, PTC, and a very fast growing Aras. They are talking innovation platforms, even digital platforms but are locked into the legacy mindset of PLM systems that are highly focused on mechanical design. They are struggling themselves to shrug this engineer only mindset off, for one that is thinking broadly, in new ways of complete product systems of hardware. software and mechanical, electrical, and all component parts of a finished product design.

These PLM providers rightly on traditional ‘heavy’ industries like Cars, Plant Design, Complex Products such as Turbines, Electrical Plant, Assembly Lines or Aeroplane designs or manufacturing specific. They are grappling with their legacy of CAD and CAE software and the software tools built up for years. Can we get them to think differently? Can we get them to re-think innovation in a broader domain for all innovation development work?

Why I feel PLM offers the way forward is they are fully aware of much within innovation language and understanding. They work consistently around the concept of complete systems from concept to final design, incorporating the product from all its hardware, software, design capabilities. They are well advanced in the increasing value of visualization (for design improvements, prototyping) and simulation (for testing and assumption management). They are comfortable with assessing risk, knowing the need to build in as much collaboration as possible. It is only in recent years the whole PLM process has gained this digital thread running throughout all. PLM is being transformed and offers the present digital innovation thread that all that innovation is requiring.

They can and do have connected design across R&D, Manufacturing, Developers and commercialization teams and well equipped to deliver smarter, connected products that can be further designed or enhanced for extended life by exploring material design and component fit.

Taking PLM as we know it out of the engineering domain and opening it up to all of innovation activities and needs is certainly a “Sea change” for them so this would happen. The point for me is that the approach of PLM solution providers, is they are steeped in innovation understanding for many essential and significant aspects.

PLM solution providers might offer the best bet for solving the need for providing a complete innovation system that is designed for all innovation needs, not just in specialised manufacturing industries but by offering solutions that have a capability for managing complexity as well as provide (stripped down) versions for many others that do not have the same design or concept delivery needs but require an integrated process that sits on a platform for allowing it to flow and connect all involved. That can only happen in a digital innovation platform in my opinion.

The stand-alone world of ‘Just’ product is rapidly declining

In a new world where software is often defining the product, there is a reversal taking place from our old worlds of the product alone into a software and product one. We do need to manage products far more across the full product lifecycle as we need to be more consciously “sustainable”.

We are seeing more and more possibilities with the use and application of “digital twins”. To achieve this transformation requires us to go digital within innovation. We need a clear, well designed digital thread running through all our innovation processes. It needs an enterprise-wide foundation. To achieve scale becomes more likely if we have our innovation concepts captured, modeled and designed through being fully digital in the innovation process. This gives us a better scope for scale, for exploration of alternatives, for collaboration and faster adaptation as market conditions constantly change.

Yet to achieve this we must overhaul our existing innovation systems and processes.

We do need a more system engineering approach as our products become increasingly complex. We are being pushed to have far more extended lifecycle responsibilities in our end solutions and in our design, build, service and operating stages we have greater potential to achieve this.  Through the digital capture, we can have our innovation digitally mapped, modeled and having in place a clear “system of record” for any design, so we can have a roadmap of design decisions and validation points and the established basis for building out further, due to these digital captured activities.

We have long moved beyond the “simpler era” in innovation Yet we still operate significant legacy in systems, in our thinking on the approaches we take for innovation. Much today is unconnected, inefficient, not visible, unable to provide a cross-collaborating environment inside our enterprise, let alone connected up to other enterprises. We have far from secure closed-loop systems and usually rely on a consistent manual intervention and lack often the serious impetus to push for progress. Too much innovation, god concepts, die inside an Enterprise for the wrong reasons of poor judgment, lack of knowledge or sufficient weight of evidence.

So we do need to ask ourselves and question our present innovation processes?

How can we evolve within ourselves when we are keeping our systems and processes “static” in design, still operating on spreadsheets, through emails, shared files that often do not ‘speak’ to each other, or capable for sharing across multiple enterprises systems as they are digitally captured, in common language?

In our current fragmentation process, we continue to “promote” gaps in knowledge, understanding and restrict learning. We need a “dynamic” environment, digitally connected that flows and connects, one that is visible to all, to contribute into.

We do need to move our rather tired innovation needle, it is truly stuck in the past.

Where will it function if we continue to manage innovation in our present ways across the emerging Digital Enterprise, without being radically altered and given a 21st-century digital solution? One that forces new designs, different innovation strategies, through technological solutions that can accelerate new business opportunities and perhaps radically new business models.

Smart connected products that through digitalization can shorten time to market, increase flexibility, improve flexibility and utility, increase our efficiencies, offer the possibilities of new business models and work towards proving the environment for increased security and protection of IP, product design and counter cyber-attacks as we add increasing software to our products.

No, there is a compelling reason to make innovation fully digital. Who can take on this challenge?

So how can we set about to build an extended digital innovation enterprise system? It needs someone to see the opportunity and seize the initiative. Can a Siemens, PTC, Dassault or Aris see the bigger innovation picture or financial pie in the potential returns and engagement? Each is growing as they embrace digital and innovation. Of the four of these, I would put PTC or Aris as the ones that have the entrepreneurial flair and independence of thought, to consider this. They both have the ambition to evaluate this as a valuable addition, by capitalizing on building this broader innovation process opportunity. It surely should be valuable to consider? As for Siemens or Dassault, it is harder to see as they are more specific in their business focus of supporting their own business entities and solutions. It might be hard for them to “look beyond”

I just presently cannot see the existing solution providers of idea management or product portfolio management have the “appetite” for this. Most have failed to evolve, many have actually retreated into being more specialized as crowdsourcing platform providers The financial investment, belief and understanding, a lack and depth of resource to deliver on this. They are all far too small, caught in their own legacy business model system, many still stuck often in the fixation of selling simply more licenses. They do, in my view, miss the bigger picture or opportunity

Can Oracle or SAP be able to step up on this? In theory, the answer is yes but so far they have made a real “hash” of their innovative solution offerings. I would like to see them shift their thinking, perhaps understand innovation beyond their own “nose” or past perspective, ones of just “extracting intelligence” or “fitting innovation into the supply chain” as the thrust of their solutions. I presently doubt either have the capabilities to realize this as they presently simply cannot see it or not motivated to think differently, a pity. No, if anyone has the “credentials” it lies within the PLM players, such as PTC or Aris.

Innovation Management and its process needs to come of age, not stuck in the past.

It can be transformed by lifting our thinking, connecting the technology that is available out there and delivers a digital innovation solution.   Are any of the providers of innovation solutions really listening or prepared to be more radical in their offering? Or are they “wedded” to their own mindset of legacy PLM thinking, mostly manufacturing orientation through the engineering culture this requires or marketing driven, reliant on brainstorming ideas and crowdsourcing as their belief this is innovation?




One thought on “The Need for Digital Innovation Platforms

  1. Pingback: We Require A Shift of Innovation Management Solution Providers | Paul4innovating's Innovation Views

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