Game Changer Insights Detail
5 big questions on innovation
Robert Novo, Global Director of TCAP
Robert Novo is a director in the global services division of BT (British Telecom) where he leads a department responsible for various proactive ITIL functions that are an integral part of a managed services contract for a multi-national, Fortune 200 insurance company. He and his team are responsible for a network with tens of thousands of devices, serving hundreds of sites worldwide. The team provides management and planning of...
Full profile »
How is your team changing the game within your industry sector?
BT has established an operational model for some of our key, complex, globally-managed services customers, where we have separated the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) functions that are primarily proactive, such as capacity planning, RCA/problem management and inventory management from the more traditional day-to-day functions like maintenance and incident management. The latter functions are supported by the network operations (NOC) team, while the team that supports the proactive functions as well as the network management tools is referred to as TCAP (Tools, Capacity, Availability, Performance, Problem). Under this model, I lead the global TCAP team that is part of a managed services contract for a multi-national, Fortune 200 insurance company with hundreds of sites and tens of thousands of network elements.
Because of this distributed operational model, BT is in a better position to engage in strategic planning discussions with our managed services customers; understanding their business plans and forecasts and their impact on the network. The team is better positioned to translate these business plans and forecasts into new requirements for analysis, reporting updates, and network monitoring and management tool features/capabilities.
What are some of the biggest impediments to innovation in your organization or industry sector?
One of the biggest impediments to innovation is inertia. While the objective of any innovation in the long run is a positive impact to the business, whether in savings or revenue, most innovations will require an upfront effort and investment to define a problem statement, hypothesize, test the hypothesis, measure the benefit and implement the solution. In particular, if it is an operational innovation, those who will use it will need to be trained and alter their daily working model to embrace it.
It is an easy trap to focus solely on meeting day-to-day deliverables and obligations, thereby losing sight of the “big picture” and not dedicating enough time for problem analysis and planning of innovations. The challenge is in establishing a balance, and investing enough time in the short term for defining and analyzing key problems and subsequently planning and developing innovations to address them.
The risk of organizational inertia emphasizes the need for effective and cascaded goal setting, both at the personal and organizational level; i.e., establishing, tracking and validating completion of relevant and SMART objectives yearly, monthly, weekly and in certain cases even daily, and ensuring appropriate targets for innovation are included in those goals.
How has innovation become engrained in your organization's culture, and how is it being optimized?
The first part of the question is an interesting one. I would say that innovation has not become engrained in our organization’s culture, because it has been there all along. We have been thought leaders since 1846 when the Electric Telegraph Company was first formed in The United Kingdom. The founders were excited by the business applications of innovation, excited by the commercial potential of electricity and magnetism could offer for communications. And since 1984, we have become truly global, extending our presence with locations and customers all over the world.
As a company, BT has a portfolio of approximately 5000 patents, and files over 100 new applications every year. Over the last five years, we have invested over £2.5B in R&D. We leverage substantial academic engagements with more than 30 elite universities around the world, including MIT, Cambridge University and Tshinghua University.
Locally and more specifically to everyone on my team, innovation is essential to our day-to-day jobs. We optimize innovations through the goal and objective-setting process (see above) both on a team as well as on an individual basis, and we measure the impact of any potential innovations against the overall benefits to the business.
What technologies, business models, and trends will drive the biggest changes in your industry over the next two years?
From a networking technology perspective, security is an ongoing concern where growth and change continue to happen. Unfortunately, it’s not just the “good guys” who are innovating. The threat landscape is rapidly changing. Every day we are hearing about new and creative ways people and companies are being put at risk, such as DDoS attacks, data theft and breaches and viruses, malware and ransomware. Hackers, with the backing of deep-pocketed organizations that provide endless resources are getting more and more sophisticated in their attacks. The industry has to constantly innovate by adapting its technologies and approach to stay ahead of the game in light of all these new cyber threats, designing services that are highly available and robust, and networks that are more resilient and making data more secure.
From the point of view of process engineering, I expect automation to be the key game changer. As enterprises digitally transform further, automation will enable them to be more efficient, increasing agility and reducing costs. IoT, M2M and machine learning will be further catalysts for this automation.
Can you share a specific innovation strategy you’ve recently encountered which you find compelling?
I think that the best innovations occur in collaborative environments; when you are part of a wider ecosystem. Our research and innovation center in Adastral Park, near Ipswich, used to be a BT-only facility. However, it is now a collaborative, open community of close to 100 leading edge technology companies and 4000 employees between BT and its partners. Our strong track record of collaborating with many institutions, including our customers and partners, has led to many examples of mutual business benefits derived from the innovations that were jointly created.