Optimizing Innovation – Rajendra Seksaria of AT&T

by Braden Kelley

Rajendra Seksaria of AT&TWe are happy to bring you some of the key points and insights from Rajendra Seksaria’s talk at the Optimizing Innovation Conference, which was held October 21-22, 2009 in New York City.

Rajendra Seksaria, AVP, Business & Process Integration at AT&T spoke about successfully managing your innovation process. Before AT&T, Rajendra spent time with IBM Consulting during the early days:

  • Discovering and developing staff with creative minds in order to capitalize on their knowledge and optimizing the innovation process
    • Important to create an environment where you can harness the best people (inside and outside)
    • Streamlining process and minimizing risk
    • Databases are not the key to innovation – connecting people is

“Many people cannot make the mental switch from protecting an existing business to creating a new business.”

But at the same time, you also have to be careful not to abandon a dying business too early or you may not have the money to fund the new thing.

Interesting facts:

  • IBM gets more patents than the next eight companies combined
  • IBM introduced a way for patent holders to get a percentage of any licensing revenues that their patents might get

AT&T’s innovative leaders program is run out of the Chairman’s office and this program allows selected individuals to have visibility to other parts of the organization and to people in other parts of the organization that they would not otherwise have.

Rajendra gave an example of a situation where AT&T was 12 months slower in cycle time than our competition (42 vs. 30). But, they determined that instead of trying to go from 42 months to 20 months on a 2 year improvement program, they had to try and go from 42 months to 10 months because they needed to try and not just improve, but to vault ahead of the competition.

Are you setting the right goal?

Are you setting the goal in relation to the competition or just in terms of what you think you can do?

AT&T Corporate Innovation Process

  • We have built something we think is sustainable. An innovation managemen system called “innovation pipeline”
  • When you join the system you are given $10,000 of innovation money that you can invest – values go up and down
  • The top 10-15 votes are presented to senior execs
  • When the product comes to market, the people who submitted the idea, participated, invested, etc. receive some kind of reward
  • First there is sme social innovation, then a pitch, then a project
  • But, this is not the only process – this is a corporate-wide process. Divisions also have their own ideas processes for improving things in the division

“Learn from your competitors mistakes”

While focusing on creating new revenue is important, don’t ignore cost savings ideas. How much new business would you have to sell to make the same amount of the savings?

Example: a $10 Million annual savings on revenue leakages from billing, cost only $40,000 to get, and that’s pure profit. At our margins, it would take something like $200 Million in new business to make that much profit.

Also, think about your strengths and what you need to do versus what you can get others to do.

Example: The group chosen to build the IBM PC, chose to think about it in terms of just assembling computers rather than building everything. As a result it took only 9 months instead of 3 years to get to market.

Optimizing Innovation Conference

Braden KelleyBraden Kelley is the editor of Blogging Innovation and founder of Business Strategy Innovation, a consultancy focusing on innovation and marketing strategy. Braden is also @innovate on Twitter.

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