The continued stream of innovation-driven disruption upending business models and transforming how work gets done is nothing new. Smart leaders are increasingly acting on the need to deliver on a focused innovation agenda. Surprising to some, this doesn’t necessarily mean making new things, but rather about delivering improved solutions to customer problems as quickly as technology develops- especially for large organizations like Wolters Kluwer.
Simon Alterman, VP & Lead Analyst, with research consultancy Outsell Inc. has been analyzing innovation models and associated work cultures in an ever-evolving technology environment across the data and information industry, through dialogue with industry leaders. As part of that research, he conducted a rare interview with Dennis Cahill, Chief Technology Officer, Wolters Kluwer */dxg.
The Wolters Kluwer Digital eXperience Group (*/dxg), likely unheard of outside the company, is an internal consulting group consisting of over 2,000 roll-up your sleeve technologists and experts. Tasked with driving customer-centric product development combined with advanced technology, the team is focused on supporting the delivery of expert solutions across Wolters Kluwer, applying next-gen technologies like AI and approaches such as UX and lean product development in partnership with our divisions to make a positive impact for our customers.
Real innovation: friction-free, right now
As customer expectations continue to rise, the need to innovate remains a top priority for all organizations (no matter their size or the complexity at hand). Dennis and Simon started their conversation looking at the central misconception that innovation is purely about technology or the responsibility of a single department. “Everyone in our organization needs to understand that innovation is core to our future, and we set up all of our processes, all our technology, and all of our talent to support continuous innovation,” said Cahill. It’s about driving change across our entire multi-billion-dollar business and 19,000+ employees.
What does this look like and how does it take shape within the organization? Some examples include our customer experience (CX) and advanced technology teams, and our success building cloud-based open services. Our CX team, for example, works in partnership with relevant product owners and senior leaders from our businesses, applying methods like contextual inquiry and lean product to drive change. Our artificial intelligence team now employs more than 50 people, many of whom have PhDs in the discipline. Finally, our platform services team has enabled the creation of reusable, generic workflow solutions that have been deployed across multiple businesses; a big win for innovation and a reduction of technology sprawl (meaning less resources are required to maintain last year’s innovations). These centers of excellence are structured such that they can be deployed to support all parts of our enterprise at any given time.
Request access to the Outsell analysis here: “Wolters Kluwer DXG: Making Innovation Everyone’s Business.”
Aligned on what matters most
According to Deloitte’s 2021 Global Human Capital Trends survey, both senior executives and individual workers identified “increasing innovation” as a priority outcome of work transformation efforts. Given that COVID -19– related conditions continue to cause uncertainty with “returning to normal,” their research reminds us about the importance of making remote/virtual work sustainable for the near future as organizations and teams reimagine the future of work while delivering on expectations. It also points to another gem you’ll hear innovation experts frequently emphasize- the need for people and processes to be aligned to a clear purpose.
To that point of increasing innovation within our organization, */dxg recently hosted a three-day virtual event, connecting over 500 attendees from all around Wolters Kluwer worldwide to exchange ways to innovate, collaborate, deliver success, and drive outcomes for our customers. One keynote session featured guest speaker David Rowan, venture capitalist, tech journalist and Founding Editor-in-Chief of Wired UK magazine, who shared insights from work in the innovation field, including gems from his book, “Non-Bullshit Innovation."
Digital strategy for all
In his talk, Rowan shared learnings from both “the small agile teams trying to go for something big, and the big incumbent businesses who were typically moving too slowly, in denial about the need to transform quickly in order to stay competitive.”
He described examples of emerging technologies converging with new experiences and decentralized networks, resulting in new forms of value, social meaning, and disruption. Covering trends like brain-computer interfaces, synthetic reality, micro-personalization, cryptocurrencies, AI, automation, robotics, and the metaverse (defined as the next paradigm of computing beyond mobile and social), he emphasized change as one of life’s few constants, especially when circumstances force or are enabled by rapid disruption. This especially rings true in our current state of navigating out of the pandemic, and when looking at the impacts of the drastic decrease in costs of technology that facilitate increasing tidal waves of big data.
Some may argue that these trends carry a lot of hype, but Rowan was quick to mention that “we’re still relatively at the beginning of the consumer digital experience, […] with a couple of billion people (2.1 approximately) buying things online, despite there being 6-7 billion not yet doing that. Everyone with a network connection is your competition now.” Curious to know what’s causing this rapid change? One explanation is Moore’s law, the principle demonstrating the speed and capacity of computers to double every two years, coupled with the falling price of such technologies like cloud computing, computer processing, solar cells, batteries, and genetic sequencing.
One more bit of wisdom: he reminded the audience of the importance of being aware of what’s coming ahead, which is embedded in his definition of true innovation, defined as: “a future facing business model, using an emerging technology in a way that solves a genuine problem. No gimmicks or expensive experiments with no purpose.”
At the heart of it, that’s where we’re focusing our innovation lens- just past the horizon.