By guest author Tony Scott
The Nature of R&D and Innovation
Tony: So, your focus, the heart of the service provided by GlobalLogic, is to manage the R&D process for your clients?
Peter: Correct, we call on the CTO. IT services always calls on the CIO.
Tony: Tell me a little bit about how you perceive the difference between those two clients. How are the kinds of services you provide different from, say, an outsourced development organization that’s going into the CIO?
Peter: It’s hard to know where to begin because there are just so many. I’m an engineer by training, by the way, a software engineer, so this is so personal to me, the idea of smaller, more experienced teams. Today’s teams are agile by default; this idea of a big, rigid specification just doesn’t exist in the world of products. We’re solving the needs of market, not a specific company, so by definition it’s a journey, not a destination. A series of milestones, not an end goal.
Tony: And a series of products for your clients?
Peter: A series of products – absolutely. The opportunities to automate are much greater if you’re solving something that needs to be built and built and built through multiple iterations, and tested across lots of different permutations and combinations; the opportunity to regression test and to optimize is much greater. So, with more experienced teams, smaller teams, more agile teams, and high levels of automation, we can improve the process and results. We think fundamentally the equation you’re solving as an R&D organization is you’re solving to a date and to a quality bar.
Tony: In other words the release date that you’re looking at . . .
Peter: That’s sacred. And you can’t compromise on the quality. And, as you said, you don’t get to negotiate those things. What you do negotiate is exactly what goes into the products on those dates.
Tony: How many and which features can happen or not.
Peter: If you think about it, it’s almost the polar opposite of how you deliver IT applications internally for your own organization. Where it’s about the specs, and you just deliver when you can. So, that is a very different equation. Plus, your employees end up shaking out the bugs because that’s what employees do. So, in that case, price is the driver, spec is the driver; and that’s what drives IT. But when you’re talking about R&D, it’s date and quality as the drivers. Price is less of a driver, features and functions maybe a little less so, but the date is sacred and quality is sacred. So, there’s a fundamentally different business equation to solve.
The last but the most ethereal and hard to qualify ingredient – but fundamentally the most important ingredient – is the one called innovation. It’s increasingly the one that we see clients look to us for. By this I mean, when clients come to a company like GlobalLogic, they don’t just expect to be able to get a product done on time and be of high quality. They actually expect GlobalLogic get to come up with ideas that they wouldn’t have thought of and help them to make a product that they couldn’t have created otherwise.
Tony: So, don’t just make my product – make my product better.
Peter: Make my product better, right. We can do that because first of all, we have the kind of global perspective that our client may lack today. And second, we’ve got multi-disciplines at work that we can bring to the table, because we work in consumer and electronics, and we work in supply chain, we work in social networks, and we work mobile and medical. We work in all these different disciplines, and we work at the intersections of these different areas. That helps us put together these multi-disciplinary teams that can create products that are just more creative, more innovative, more out-of-box. I think that’s increasingly what’s setting us apart. We are developing a reputation in the market for helping companies to revitalize their stagnant innovation and helping them to reignite it, launch new products, and come up with new ideas for full products.
Tony: A perfect example of this recently happened in the market with Apple’s new iPhone. There were clearly some issues in the hardware design. You can argue that the problems have been made out to be bigger than they are, but I don’t think anyone can deny that Apple didn’t want those issues to exist, and that maybe they could have been solved if the company had stronger expertise in certain aspects of hardware, such as advanced antenna design, for example.
The problem for most companies is that it is very hard to build and gain all talent you need to work on the cutting edge of multiple disciplines that aren’t core to your company. And even if you do, how can you keep that talent continually engaged on the newest, most cutting-edge aspects of things? Maybe you can, maybe you can’t. You certainly have times when you have ballooning needs, and then they shrink back down for a while and then they balloon again. So, the concept of being able to have all of these resources in-house in your own organization is very difficult in a rapidly changing technological world.