Last week I decided to escape the snowy and brutal winter that has blanketed Boston and head to a sunny and warmer location – Chicago. Ha, clearly I am suffering from cabin fever. The reality is Chicago was warmer and had barely any snow, but enough about the weather.

What brought my colleague Ray Wang and me to Chicago was to visit Capgemini and attend their well-organized analyst day. The theme over the two days was pretty clear – innovation is the future for Capgemini. Easy to proclaim, difficult to execute. So can Capgemini live up to their lofty proclamation? Only time will tell but here are three take-aways that indicate they are on the right path:

  • Instilling the closed loop process to innovation: Innovation cannot be a one time event, something that falls into a to-do list that we can check off as complete and move on to the next task. Being able to innovate must be something an organization takes on as a habit. Similar to exercising – going to the gym or for a swim is okay as a one-time event, but making it a habit is where we draw the greatest benefits. Capgemini emphasized the importance of infusing a habit of innovating with not only their clients but within their own organization. They highlighted work they did with many of their customers to constantly seek and execute on innovative needs. One such customer is one of North America’s largest agriculture co-operatives, who highlighted two large-scale workshops they had leveraging Capgemini’s Accelerated Solutions Environment facilitated process. These resulted in some important changes as well as greater innovative process for the companies 17 divisions. The framework from Capgemini is simple but requires discipline and rigor to stay with the process:
    • Discover – These are where the in person sessions are vital to flesh out where the needs are and what can be implemented.
    • Devise – Think of this as the fail fast segment. Implement quickly and learn quickly as to what works and will not.
    • Deploy – Take the successes from the prior stage and begin to deploy across the board.
    • Sustain – This is the key closed loop element. This cannot be a one-time project but must constantly build on itself. Sustain brings you back to the Discover phase.
  • Failure is just as important as success: It could be argued that failure is the foundation of success. The whole notion of “fail fast” is what allows you to get to the successes sooner. Capgemini highlighted an example of working with a large CPG to exploring greater efficiencies via using Google glass. Unfortunately, the project did not achieve the goals. But fortunately for all the parties involved they absorbed plenty of learning from the experience. As Capgemini stated, just because the project did not catch on, does not mean it will not resurface down the road. The use of the technology for the original goal did not get adopted, but the learning that came from the process was successful. Capgemini’s customer shelved what would have been a large expenditure, Google was provided with the feedback to improve their product and the findings from the experience provide the basis for potential similar projects in the future. As a client stated during the conference “The toe stubs are where innovation comes from.” Which is why the next take away is crucial to the innovation journey.
  • Long term relationship, not speed dating: Capgemini clearly displayed that their mind set is to develop and maintain long-term relationships with their customer base. They truly want to be seen as a partner for their customers and not only as firefighters being brought on to put out fires. Capgemini highlighted a number of clients Hydro One, Syngenta, Jamba Juice and Coca Cola to name a few. Wanting to create a long term business relationship is the goal of most companies, regardless of their industry. But it is clear for companies such as Capgemini, Accenture, KPMG and TCS to name a few, the days of large one off projects to implement large package applications are dwindling. That revenue stream cannot be sustainable. Becoming a trusted advisor to navigate the continually shifting technology and business process landscape could provide a more reliable revenue stream. It certainly will not be easy, but marriage never is!

It is clear that Capgemini recognizes the needed to move from being an integrator to a trusted advisor. They provided some thoughts and some voice of the customer that seems to point to Capgemini being on the right path. However it will be interesting to see if they can make this innovation partnership a large enough chunk of their business. They did mention during the session that they did see lots of business from merger and acquisitions. These feel like firefighting opportunities. Companies need to consolidate systems and processes after a business event, but does that translate to long-term partnerships? To be determined.

The new model for innovation is about delivering a stream of innovation not just one great idea. The right strategic direction for the company, but the journey will not be without major difficulties. But nothing worth achieving is simple.

Business Research Themes