Game Changer Insights Detail
5 big questions on innovation
Dhrupad Trivedi, President, CEO and Chairman of the Board
In December 2019, Dhrupad Trivedi became president and chief executive officer of A10 Networks (NYSE: ATEN), a global technology leader providing secure application services for on-premises, multi-cloud and edge-cloud environments at hyperscale. The company’s customers include leading enterprises, cloud providers and telecommunications service providers worldwide. From 2010 to 2019, Dr. Trivedi served in multiple...
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How is your team changing the game within your industry sector?
I would say one of the keys to building an innovation culture is having people within your organization and on your teams that continuously challenge the status quo and have the ability to think about the biggest problems and challenges customers and markets are trying to solve and how your company can evolve to address them. Typically, that is going to require you to look at things from multiple points of view. You have to think about it from a technology point of view; you have to think about it from a user point of view; and you have to think about it from a structural and macro trend point of view. So, when I think about this, I think about organizations and cultures that are continuously connecting what they do with how they can help their customers and markets achieve value. This may include breakthrough technology, doing something no one else can do, but it is always about connecting what you do with your customers and markets. It may be your customers don’t really know the solutions they need, but still you need a culture that is always focused on solving the customer’s problem.
What are some of the biggest impediments to innovation in your organization or industry sector?
One of the biggest impediments is being anchored to what has worked in the past. Too many technology companies begin by doing something great, but they fail to understand what the next great thing should be. Where can I continued to innovate? The second factor, which is related to that, is inside-out thinking rather than outside-in. Companies can spend too much time thinking about what they do without bridging that to what their customers really need. Companies may have important technology and expertise that their customers don’t have, but they still need to make that relatable to the customer and ultimately deliver solutions that improve the customer experience and deliver better business outcomes. Now there are some innovations that you may build that never translate into customer success, and that’s okay. However, it’s critical that you keep thinking about where your customers and markets are going and how you can help them get there.
How has innovation become engrained in your organization's culture, and how is it being optimized?
One of the things that drives innovation is creating a problem-solving culture. You need to create a culture of examining the biggest problems your market faces and figuring out how you can help solve them. The problem might not be the product itself. It might be that you need to make the product easier to use and consume. Maybe it’s a technology problem. Maybe it’s a usability problem, or maybe it’s a customer interface problem. But being clear on the problem you’re trying to solve is essential. It takes an analytical mindset in which you are always being driven by the problem you’re trying to solve. You are trying to solve a problem in a new and different way, and there is always the chance that that won’t be the right way. There is always an executional risk. But an analytical mindset will help you understand that risk, along with the invention side of the equation. It guides you in a more structured way and helps you understand why you are trying to do something and what success will look like.
What technologies, business models, and trends will drive the biggest changes in your industry over the next two years?
There are many. One of the really big trends in our industry has to do with the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0. More sensors and objects are being connected and are collecting and generating more data. And all of that runs through networks and into applications. All of it needs to be efficiently and flexibly managed and that represents a major opportunity and challenge for our industry. The second thing that affects our business is that, as all of this gets connected, it creates a naturally attractive target for cyber criminals and attacks. A10 Networks brings a deep understanding of networks, but also an understanding of the nature and structure of those attacks with the technical expertise to detect them and remediate them. I don’t expect cybersecurity to become less of a problem over the coming years, especially as connectivity becomes more and more important. A third big trend is the continued adoption of the cloud for storage and compute. This is a huge trend for the industry and also for us. How do we support our customers as they continue to move into the hybrid environment of public and private clouds and on-premises systems? All of these trends are also creating a major skills gap, so it’s incumbent on us to continually create greater customer ease of use.
Can you share a specific innovation strategy you’ve recently encountered which you find compelling?
Achieving alignment across the organization and all of your teams—commercial teams, engineering teams, product teams, marketing teams—on why you are doing things is really a strategic imperative. And then you need to connect all of that to the customer. As I’ve said before, not everything you try is going to work. But if you can create a much more inclusive conversation on why you are doing something, it really helps you get there. Now I think it’s true that if you do everything the customer tells you to do, you will not be very successful because the customer doesn’t know what he or she doesn’t know. But if you understand their underlying problems, you can be far more effective as an innovator. What we are trying to do at A10 Networks is to create a shorter closed loop between sales, engineering and product management, so that we can function as one team focused on solving problems for our customers, whether that is a new product or a new consumption model, for example. Another strategic requirement for A10 is always focusing part of our development efforts on breakthrough ideas and solutions. They may have a low probability of success, but if we are successful, we will solve major challenges for our customers.