- 24 years at HP in engineering, engineering management, and general management
- Led teams working on emerging technologies and enterprise mobility strategy
- Designed, developed or built HP's Cooltown innovation centers in Singapore, London, Palo Alto and elsewhere.
- Developed and marketed HP's VerSecure encryption technology and represented HP as encryption policy expert in meetings with the White House, U.S. Congress, FBI, Departments of Defense, Justice and Commerce
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Software and Technology Companies: From Legacy to the Future
New technologies and changing customer expectations are having an impact on your business whether you like it or not. Your customers are changing. They have new requirements, which they may not be able to describe very well. The question is:
- How do you get ahead in a rapidly changing environment?
- How do you get ahead of the curve, rather than staying in catch-up mode, when the failure to innovate threatens your business?
- How do you take your product or service from where it is today to where it needs to be?
Legacy products and the entire legacy situation in which they’re embedded often impedes companies from moving into the future. You’d like to ignore the legacy and just focus on the future, but you can’t.
Smaller companies in particular often struggle with the imbalance between supporting legacy products and investing in the future. Your current revenue-generating business needs to continue while you’re planning for your future and it is too easy for attention and focus to return to short-term, business as usual. Then your plans for the future fall by the wayside.
The problem is to define the future in the face of uncertainty. Don’t assume that you know what the future will be for your offerings. The best way to discern the future and to build the right products is to have select customers contribute to the definition and development of the product. Develop customer intimacy. That mean establish longer-term relationships with customers where you are doing the learning.
Another key is to create frequent iterations of even partially developed products that are reviewed by all stakeholders both external and internal.
- Create frequent prototypes: Start making things early and often.
- Get early prototypes in the hands of customers.
- Ask them to prioritize features or solutions.
As you define your product be aware that your customers are liable to change their minds. As product life cycles decrease, product planners and development teams need to plan for the extended lifetime of the product. Assume that your product is going to change over time and design it accordingly.
Getting the right team in place is also crucial. Issues of trust, empowerment and high performance teamwork come into play when a company innovates. In most cases, moving from the legacy to the future is a change management play. You are moving into the future with new offerings and this means that things will change and people tend to resist change. Preparing people for change and making decisions in a responsible manner is no small piece of the challenge.