In the past couple of years, I have been delighted to see how the digital revolution has accelerated the pace of innovation at warp speed. It has been even more gratifying, however, to experience how this trend has disrupted traditional relationships between technology suppliers and their customers.
Today, the most successful suppliers and customers have become more like trusted partners co-innovating solutions together. Fading fast are the days when the relationship between seller and buyer consisted of a handshake and a few check-in calls before re-engaging again when contract renewals came up.
Leading technology providers and users now recognize that they need each other more than ever before. This shift to a more symbiotic relationship is born out of necessity to survive and thrive in the digital era, which is driving the Internet of Everything (IoE) that connects people, process, data and things.
The power of data and analytics. Smart organizations in both the public and private sectors know that in today’s uber competitive world they too must become technology organizations. To avoid becoming dinosaurs, they must leverage the power of data and analytics to improve processes and profits or to reduce costs and risk, whether they’re providing energy, transportation, consumer goods or urban services.
At the same time, technology companies such as Cisco realize they must provide more than devices or boxes. They must sell vertical-market solutions and services – with technology as the enabler — that produce tangible business outcomes.
At Cisco, we saw this market transition of customer co-innovation a few years ago. That’s why we have built IoE Centers of Innovation in major hubs worldwide where we can work with startups, developers, partners and customers to innovate together in a well-equipped lab setting. It is also why we have joined with customers such as Loews, Nike, Visa, Home Depot and many others in workshops to hyper-innovate solutions through rapid prototyping, experimentation and transparent collaboration. The more we experiment together, the more we will see mutual wins.
The triple win of closer collaboration. Through these closer collaborations, we are co-discovering and co-developing prototypes in days or even hours rather than months or even years that have high market potential. The synergistic combination of a market-savvy customer and technology-savvy supplier working hand-in-hand can have unprecedented benefits for both parties and for society in general. It’s a triple win.
This emerging theme of co-innovation with customers was reinforced a number of times recently at Cisco Live! in San Diego during keynotes, over lunch, at The DevNet Zone and in conversations among the more than 25,000 attendees (100,000 counting online participants). Check a gallery of photos here.
In his keynote, technology luminary Dr. Peter Diamandis underscored how companies that work with their customers to innovate will rise above the competition. “Success is a function of the number of experiments being done per year, per month, per week and per day,” he said. “The successful companies create a culture of experimentation where you have small, isolated teams that have the ability to try and fail in order to find success.”
In his last Cisco Live! keynote as Cisco’s CEO, John Chambers noted that 75 percent of the 25,000 people in the audience would enable their businesses to become digital in the next five years, but only about 30 percent will be successful because they don’t know how to get started or bolder, faster competitors will overtake them. All companies, John emphasized, must reinvent themselves to survive.
Picking up the same theme in his keynote, Cisco CEO-designate, Chuck Robbins, said, “We (Cisco) are going to crank up the pace of innovation like you’ve never seen before” by becoming the key partner to drive digital strategies for transformation.
Experimentation. Reinvention. Co-Innovation. I think these are the new keywords that best describe the impact of the digital age. Collectively, these words mean that all businesses –especially technology providers and their customers — must rethink their relationships to speed better outcomes and experiences for everyone.