Software companies , Innovation and On-premise


You cannot walk on the street, or browse on internet, these days without some one screaming “innovation” on your face.  Software companies lead the pack here – not only do they use the word “innovation” ad-nauseum, they also take time to explain why their competition is not using “innovation”.

Read this excellent blog by Dennis Howlett  http://www.zdnet.com/blog/howlett/saps-innojagd-dont-laugh-this-is-real/2059 . Dennis is known to give software companies, including SAP (He, I and Craig who is mentioned in the blog, are all SAP Mentors), a hard time on the incessant use of the word “innovation”. After reading his blog, I wanted to put in my 2 cents as well.

When do we call something innovative? I would think that, it is innovative when something changes for the better – in a significant fashion.

When you are working on a project – your aim is to make something better. But you don’t know if it is better or innovative, till your customer uses it and acknowledges it as better than status quo. So does that mean all projects are innovative? I would say no. It is an after the fact issue – a lagging indicator.

I don’t think it makes sense to say “I am working on an innovation project”. Every one is working on projects that can claim to be innovative – but only the ones that make a meaningful result at the end can claim to be innovative.

I read somewhere that Edison had to do few thousand prototypes before light bulb was invented. Do we say that Edison worked on 2000 innovation projects that failed? or do we give him credit for one great innovation?

So in my mind – I would consider it a total marketing buzzword till such time as software companies can say something like ” here is how this product was when it came out, here is what we changed 3 years ago, and over the last 3 years – our customers gained 20% cost benefits due to this. And we have several such cases which we can demonstrate value-add measured by independent sources.  This proves we are known for innovation, and you can trust us to make better and better stuff for you as time passes”.

A closing comment on “On Premise” – as in “On premise vs On demand”. I am told this die was cast and it won’t change – but doesn’t premise mean something like an assumption or a hypothesis? And hence shouldn’t these people start saying “On Premises” or even “On the premises” to denote a system that is local as opposed to, say somewhere on the cloud.  I am not a native english speaker, so I will gladly stand corrected if my premise is wrong 🙂 

So what do you think about this? I am very keen to hear your take on it.

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5 thoughts on “Software companies , Innovation and On-premise

  1. As far as I’m concerned-the idea in an of itself is innovative, each version of a software is not neccessarily innovative. When I think of new software “versions” usually I just assume that the interface is smoother and some bugs got worked out-I don’t think of a team of engineers coming up with new innovative ideas. I think the true inovators have likely moved on to new projects all together and the subsequent versions of their original designs are being handled by the dedicated cattle that are ahppy to tinker with stuff that already exists. Sure if I’m buying I prefer the spanky new version, but it takes a lot to get me to upgrade something I already have (usually smoke and fire are involved-but then I am notoriously cheap).

    At the moment I’m dating a software guy. At first, I was pretty sure his job was pretend, because he is a.) self employed, b.) is always wearing house slippers and a white t-shirt c.) seems to have no idea what its like to report into someone. His product is good, he is turning investors away like gang busters as he gets closer to bringing it to market and becomes less interested in sharing the profits. He walked me through his “project” as he called it. Its not new, its not necessarily innovative, but its smarrrrtttt, and I wonder what the difference is?

    • I am a big fan of yours, Dennis. Even when I don’t agree with your position occassionally, I admire you for being a straight shooting guy.
      And on this over use of the word “innovation” by vendors, I am as passionate as you are !

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