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Innovating for outcomes …

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Avaya’s MD for South Africa, Danny Drew, believes that innovation should be towards a broader goal that can ensure inclusivity, development and growth for individuals and the community at large.
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? This is an old philosophical question, and naturally, the scientists had to weigh in. Scientific American, in the late 1800s, effectively concluded that if there are no ears in the vicinity to sense the vibrations that is sound, then no, the falling tree does not make a sound.
Why is this relevant? Let’s rethink this in our context: If technology innovation doesn’t ultimately benefit the end-user, is it really innovation?
Now this is a far more difficult question to answer, but I believe that as an organisation and industry we are moving towards the thinking that technology innovation, in the absence of benefit to end-users, remains just an advance in technology and cannot be classified as innovation.
Think about it: Innovation is not only about doing different things or inventing the latest and greatest, but it is equally about doing things differently. As technology vendors at the cutting-edge of enabling digital transformation for our community – people, customers, and partners – we realise the value of ‘thinking innovation through’. Company X may have 50 per cent more technology patents than Company Y, but if 50 per cent more people are using Company Y’s products, then it is clear who is more successful. To apply the ultimate benchmark of success, if users and customers are ‘Happy’, then the solution is a success.
Technology firms often get so caught up in the excitement of technology advancement that the technology itself becomes the star. There can be a disconnect between what solution the technology provides, and what challenges the market is actually facing at that particular point in time. This is not to say that businesses should not innovate ahead of the market curve, but if this is the result, then there should be a concerted effort to educate the market about the benefits.
Which brings us to what we like to call our ‘Innovation Community’ – Avaya believes that innovation is not restricted to our R&D labs, but calls for a mechanism for proper feedback from the end-users. Our customers and partners are our primary source of this feedback. As the old customer adage goes, if they’re happy, they tell us; and if they’re unhappy, they tell everyone! This feedback is essential for us to be able to communicate to our technical teams, and work with them to innovate solutions with clear end-user happiness metrics in mind. If a customer has a challenge with ensuring secure mobility for their vastly-dispersed workforce, they won’t want to hear about the latest fixed-line solution.
This cycle of information, feedback, development, and advancement is ultimately the cycle of innovation.
If we look at the development of smart cities and link it to innovation, it is much more than just enabling WiFi services. Our observation is that there is a new trend taking shape: while WiFi is certainly one of the services, part of most smart city initiatives that we are seeing are adding video surveillance and analytics in very large scale, which is quite difficult once again when using a legacy infrastructure.
Smart cities are about enabling new services to better service your population. This is about making your city safer, offering new services while enabling consumers to use the services, to drive net new revenues or, in some cases, focused only on providing a better experience to visitors and tourists. If residents feel safe, get best-in-class services and feel their city is at the forefront of offering new services, they will be happier and they will share their feelings with others and especially on social media.
Cities have to move to a different architecture model to support next-generation smart-x services. The legacy client-server model has served us well, but over 25 years we have increased its complexity and made reliability a huge challenge due to complex protocols required to address all of these business needs.
From security, to scalability, to video streaming to recovery times from failures, the legacy model is no longer suitable and it is time to press the ‘reset’ button and start with a new mind-set.