Following on from the first exploration, of open source and its relevance today, the next topic up for discussion at the Microsoft Technology Summit, was innovation.
Riedwaan Bassadien, the platform strategy manager at Microsoft South Africa, pointed out that even as all businesses desire to create new products or services so as to gain a new competitive advantage, one of the issues that organisations are struggling with is how to do it.
This is exacerbated by the fact that businesses may have internal resistance to new ideas and new ways of doing things, which kills the potential for innovative approaches. He continued that a lot of organisations are also trying to find a way into how to introduce new approaches while not completely refocusing the existing business.
“As a business, we are also going through that, as the traditional ways that Microsoft is used to delivering, such as on premise and licensing, have given way to this whole new world of subscription services, innovation, cloud services and the like. Therefore, we have to strike that balance between the two,” he elaborated.
Another issue that innovation brings to the fore is how to build a culture that embraces new approaches without creating too much disruption for an organisation. This, he noted, often comes down to leadership from those who have managed to avoid getting stuck in the past. “It is a new skill a lot of leaders are going to need to develop, so as to encourage their company to innovate and think about new ideas, while translating these into new products that can deliver value,” he stressed.
Growth of Innovation
With this, it certainly seems as though innovation has become more critical and more of an front-and-centre concern for all business, large and small in recent years. Clifford De Witt, the developer and platform lead at Microsoft South Africa, explained that he believes the reason why we have witnessed the innovation cycle growing rather than flattening out is because of enablement.He continued that the multitude of platforms – whether they be Microsoft’s own offerings, open source or others – are allowing people to innovate much more quickly.
De Witt elaborated that In the old days of software development, one had to spend a considerable amount of time in the metaphoric ‘plumbing.’ Having to worry about installing the server, dealing with security and then writing the software, left developers little time for innovating, which meant the rate of innovation was much lower. “Now, however, with cloud platforms and modern APIs, we are abstracting a lot of that away, so people are able to take business problems and solve them much more rapidly,” he enthused.
This, he expanded, has an interesting catalytic effect on large businesses, especially since previously, one would need an expensive dedicated data centre and servers. The expense of these meant the bar was incredibly high to compete with the established players.
Clifford De Witt
Disruption from anywhere
This is not the case anymore, quite the opposite, in fact. Instead, anyone with an idea can avail themselves of significant IT resources at a fraction of the cost of owning their own datacentre, implement it and run it at scale it in next to no time.
“All of a sudden someone who has a great idea for doing something in financial services can challenge the corporates who have been in place for thirty years. This is why we are seeing corporates embracing innovation, because the decision makers in these organisations are realising that if they just immunise their own organisation to innovation, somebody is going to disrupt them,” he noted.
This also means that, with the right skills and idea, and for the price of a good glass of wine, everyone and anyone can become a competitor in any industry. In essence, Bassadien concluded, cloud has become the great leveler of the playing field - on which everyone is welcome.