The Case for Innovation in Managed Services

I wanted to share a brilliant article from one of our friends, Chris Payne of CSS Consultancy. He works in the Facilities Management (FM) space, but I think this could apply to any service business that engages with their customer on a time limited contract.

He suggests that while these companies are happy to talk about innovation, in reality, when you map the impact of innovation (the green line from left to right) in most cases the service provider / outsourcer brings with them some innovations (which were possibly the reason why they won the business in the first place) but in reality, the impact of those innovations drop off sharply when they move into the steady state mode.

Innovation Effort (the blue line which goes bottom left to top right),is then restarted when the contractor starts to focus their efforts from steady state / business as usual to the contract renewal. In many cases this might be too little too late. Frankly, if they can deliver loads of ideas in the final few months of a contract, why on earth couldn’t they have sustained that throughout the life of the contract?

The point of the article it to show that applying the processes and disciplines to sustain innovation and make it Business as Usual pays dividends in terms of embedding the provider deeper into the customer’s organisation, providing greater opportunities for contract extension, sharing and exploiting learning and best practice from one location or contract can be captured and extended to other locations and contracts;

  • Individuals become more committed to problem solving and generating new ways of operating that drive value
  • Morale is improved
  • Profit is enhanced
  • Competitive differentiation in the marketplace is established

The steady state (to-be) picture should look like this

I highly recommend you take a look at the whole article here.

Has the Personal Computer has been disrupted!

old-woman-ipadI am very much of the generation that bridged the world before and after PCs. The University that I attended had a handful of PCs in the whole college and when I first started work in 1992, the only person that had a PC was the financial controller. I didn’t use  a PC for my day to day work for a couple of years after that.

Just a few years later however, by the late 90’s I started my first business,, an internet photolab and sharing site. Even then I still didn’t have a laptop until the £4m Venture Capital funds hit the bank.

Since then, PCs have become ubiquitous – they are everywhere. However, PC sales plunged 14 percent in the first three months of this year, the biggest decline in two decades of keeping records.

How can this be? Well the tablet computer like the ipad seems to have disrupted the PC marketplace. A few years ago it would have been impossible to imagine anything slowing the growth of PCs. Indeed, the  only person that I know that doesn’t have a PC is my dear old Mum. 

BUT….she now has a tablet e-reader! Purchased from a supermarket for less than £50.

Naturally for that price, it’s not a PC, but it does everything most people do on their PCs. The growth of web-based services means that most people, most of the time, simply don’t need a PC, they simply need a device that connects to the internet that runs a web browser.

Rewards for Innovation that don’t cost anything (well, not too much)

Innovation needs impetus and rewarding participation in Innovation is really important. One of the best ways to achieve this impetus is by offering prizes. We all like prizes and we are mostly competitive and want to be rewarded for our efforts. Prizes offer that extra bit of motivation to go the extra mile.

Prizes don’t have to be all about money – indeed one of the problems that organisations have with rewarding staff for ideas with monetary prizes is that it creates an incentive NOT to share ideas until there is a prize on offer! Prizes don’t need to have a monetary value however, here are some ideas;

Entry into a lottery syndicate (the firm buys the ticket)

A monetary donation to a charity

A day off or a pass to leave early

A pat on the back from the boss in the company magazine

Flexible hours for a month

Reserved parking space

The keys to a company car for a week

The case for “just getting started” on your brilliant Idea from Stef Lewandowski.

I saw Stef Lewandowski present at an Open Innovation conference in June 2013. He recently published an article where he makes a compelling case for ‘just getting started’ to bring your Brilliant Idea to life.

I certainly think that we can over-think our ideas – and certainty our business ideas. This is a great article that makes the case for recognising that the most important thing isn’t writing it all down, planning it out, and doing things ABOUT the thing, rather than actually DOING the thing itself!

His argument is that if you invest time upfront building something – even if it’s just 10% of what you envision the end solution to be, it will probably allow you to demonstrate 90% of what the idea will be about. The remaining 90% of the time will be refinement, but it will still only add 10% of the perceived “done-ness” of the idea you’re demonstrating. It’s the shlep – the long, hard, graft that’s required to take a product idea to market and get it right.

Well worth reading the full article,

Anne Summers does Open Innovation

Channel 4 here in the UK screened a documentary last week about the sex toy business Anne Summers who launched a campaign to find a diverse group of women to help them come up with ideas for new products.

It was a great example of Open Innovation and co-creation process from capturing their needs, to designing products all the way through to an insight into the whole product development and  manufacturing process.

They launched 8 products (one per participant), but they found one unique idea from one of the participants which was a vibrator that expanded to.  uummhh…fill the required space. Anne Summers has an extensive range of vibrators (apparently) so this is a brilliant example of how a customer / user can describe an unmet need that the market leader hadn’t spotted for themselves. The product development manager couldn’t hide his excitement about the commercial potential for this product.

It also showed the potential downside of Open Innovation in that the woman that came up with this idea clearly found it difficult to balance the very positive experience that the process offered with the fact that, that’s all she will gain despite Anne Summers potentially making millions from her idea.

You can watch the whole program by following this link, I highly recommend it.

David Cameron promises £1m ‘Longitude Prize’ for BIG ideas

It will be fascinating to see how this pans out.

It’s not the first time that Cameron has crowd-sourced’ ideas. When the torries first came to power they launched a similar campaign to gather ideas for saving money. (

Those of us ‘in the know’ saw the obvious flaws that didn’t seem to have been discussed;

– do you really believe that the reason why Local Councils are overspending is that they haven’t got any ideas on how to save money?

– who is going to decide which ideas to select?

– what message is it giving the idea originators who don’t hear anything back?(to name just a few)

They received 100,000 ideas. Did anyone hear or see anything about good new stories of ideas that were actually implemented? Could that be because the spin doctors forgot, or because the story wasn’t as good as they would have liked?

Interestingly this call to action is perhaps the opposite. Rather than looking for thousands of small money saving ideas, they are asking for a small number of ground breaking ideas and offering a prize.