EMC Innovation Conference – day 1

First of all, I echo what Mark posted about the refreshment that comes from talking with people face-to-face that I typically communicate with less personally (e.g. IM, email, wiki, blog, etc.).

Being at the conference in person also allowed me to meet several folks for the first time.

Right before lunch, I spent some time talking with Kartik and Steve about various ways to bring different parts of the EMC business together for real customer impact (e.g. around archiving–not just reacting to today’s concerns but helping customers articulate their vision toward long-term return on information such as may be found in a presidential library or elsewhere “100 year problems” may exist).

This year the conference went virtual, with over 1000 participants around the globe. (Last year was just a physical event with roughly 400 attendees). This is a welcome development.

The conference itself kicked off by Harry You welcoming this physical-and-virtual audience and fielding questions. In short, I really like Harry. He is a strong advocate for technology and technologists, and he is both warm and plain spoken.

Next, Jeff Nick addressed the topic of “Innovation at EMC: One Year Later.” Jeff did so by talking about seven new C’s: concepts, connections, communities, career track, customer interactions, communications and course. Within this seven-C framework, Jeff emphasized a disruptive, collective approach to innovation rather than one living only in ivory towers.

He provided compelling evidence of the inclusive, viral nature of innovation at EMC, especially taking place in our Centers of Excellence (CoE) around the world. Internally, we have EMC ONE, which provides an easy-to-use platform for group collaboration (e.g. communities and wikis) and individual editorial (e.g. blogging). EMC ONE was preceded by an internal wiki pilot in the corporate CTO office and has since influenced the corporation’s public web properties (e.g. EDN).

The model Jeff described works; it has been proven already within EMC. However, it doesn’t scale…yet. (To those of my colleagues at EMC: think about this next year holds.)

Jeff closed by stating the following three things that matter:

  • EMC puts the ‘I’ back into IT. Information doesn’t commoditize; technology does. Therefore, focus on the derivation of value from information.
  • EMC leads the way in inclusive innovation. EMC’s talent pool–its people–is its least commoditizable asset. Therefore, leverage it; don’t go around it.
  • EMC inspires, empowers and honors its technical community. The conference thus far certainly reinforces this priority and commitment.

The day’s guest speaker was Alan Marcus, Director, Head of IT and Telecommunications Industries, World Economic Forum. Alan spoke on “The Geography of Innovation” (or as he suggested, the economy of innovation). His presentation was both interesting and meaty (i.e. I need to re-read his presentation, which was packed with engaging visuals, charts and anecdotes).

Here are some of the rough notes I took during Alan’s talk:

  • Patents are a terrible measure of innovation, but no one has come up with a better alternative.
  • For the first time, there are four generations of workers in today’s workforce–each wanting very different sets of things.
  • Collaboration is a tough problem where innovation is concerned (e.g. openness vs. IP risks).
  • Closed, open, mass–these types of collaboration remind me of interaction design and observation of user-system interaction (e.g. the value of understanding mass behavior as well as the innovation produced by the mass). That is, I believe that you must be engaged in the process–perhaps more so in a mass context.
  • WEF Innovation Heat Map
  • Understand the implications of comparative advantage
  • Out-innovate yourself, or someone else will!
  • Innovation is about a core aspiration. Structures form and structures fall (e.g. middle management moving to use LinkedIn, then moving to use Facebook, then moving to…). Structure serves aspirations.

Following Alan’s presentation, conference attendees were invited to attend the innovation showcase, which featured the final 30 submissions diligently reviewed and selected from among the 984 total ideas submitted from 19 countries world-wide (414 India; 205 US; 169 Ireland; 97 China; …). The team or individual behind each final submission stood by a large poster conveying (visualizing) the idea’s essence. What a great set of ideas! Furthermore, the passion behind each idea was clearly on display, too. I had a chance to meet and share ideas with Dr. Jidong Cheng from EMC Research China, and I look forward to our future collaborations.

To wrap up this post, here are some additional notes I took during the day:

  • Inspiration doesn’t guarantee impact. Therefore, will to make innovation presented during this year’s conference more impactful.
  • Innovation investment is all the more critical in a down-turn (e.g. current, prevailing economic conditions).
  • Connecting ideas and communities is the essence of EMC’s innovation conference.
  • Integration isn’t just about technology or technical integration. I will continue to maintain that SOA is least about technology; it’s more to do with organization and behavior (thinking and acting).
  • I got to thinking about Cloud/SaaS/PaaS as a way to pool together smaller business/tenants into larger “unions” to yield better cost (TCO). For example, consider such behavior for health insurance or even phone company discounts offered to employees of larger corporations. The implications of the economies of scale makes me think…
  • Nearing intersection of personal and professional information management
  • Pain typically precedes change/action/transition (e.g. cost of IT…hosted solutions)
  • Enterprise space can learn from consumer space, and vice versa–what are the key lessons/observations?

More to report in a follow-up post…