"Innovate at the Speed of a Start-up, but the Scale of an Enterprise"

Executive Insight:
Simon Kalechstein, Associate Partner, IBM


In preparation for the 2018 CAMSS BC and CAMSS Ontario conferences, we caught up with Simon Kalechstein, Associate Partner at IBM to gain some insight in to his session on "Innovate at the speed of a start-up, but the scale of an enterprise".

1. Your session at the CAMSS B.C. and CAMSS Ontario conferences focuses on innovation. More specifically, how to do this at the speed of a start-up but at enterprise scale. Can you begin by providing a brief overview of the topic and it's importance?

In this session, we'll share some successful approaches and lessons learned in bridging startup agility with enterprise scale. It's really about re-imagining how the organization innovates, operates, and engages with its employees, its customers, and partners.  We call this Digital Reinvention. And most importantly, making the change sustainable and scalable by building capability, focusing on talent and clear goals.

2. Why do large enterprise organizations struggle to innovate? Aside from the obvious, what other factors play a role in giving start-ups an advantage over large enterprises?

We've seen organizations focus on the shiny thing, but not always tie it to the delivery model - resources, methods, processes and tools - to make it real. Some organizations treat innovation as an extension of IT, where a few people tinker until something brilliant emerges. Others have different pockets of the organization working with a variety of fintechs without a cohesive strategy, resulting in duplication of effort and solutions that aren't aligned. 

3. How important is culture and leadership in order to create an open innovation platform?

Culture and leadership are key. Success comes from fostering a culture that thinks big, starts small, and moves fast, and collaboration by bringing down traditional internal barriers. Success comes from thinking big and rallying teams around a compelling vision. Starting small with quick iterative wins to build teams' confidence. Then moving fast by celebrating continuous improvement.

4. How is IBM positioned to assist companies across Canada with their innovation goals?

Through Innovation Garages that we've established with our clients, we've brought fintechs and enterprises together, and incubated and scaled new ways of working. 
The power of the Innovation Garage is unleashed by creating an environment with the right people, in the right place, with the right tools, with the ability to move fast. We focus on five dimensions:

  • Internal collaboration -- The innovation garage accelerates internal collaboration across traditional boundaries. We’ve seen this work very well in our innovation garages across Canada. We've worked with public sector clients to help drive collaboration across ministries, and enterprises to drive collaboration across departments.
  • External partnerships – The garage can facilitate partnerships and collaboration with startups, academia, and other interested parties and external partners. This collaboration is crucial to success, as there are many failed innovation experiments that were doomed from the start because of their inward focus.
  • Sandbox for innovation – This is the ability to test dozens of ideas and then quickly narrow down to the two or three that have the greatest potential. You can then move beyond proofs of concept and pilots into production. For example, we've worked with banking clients to rapidly iterate solutions to transform the client experience.
  • Rigour and discipline – Innovation that works needs precision and thoughtfulness applied to the process. Everyone in the ecosystem benefits from this rigour, but probably the greatest beneficiaries are the innovation garage team members who are gaining new skills and are being empowered by the process.
  • Scalability, capacity and expertise – Building new solutions on old systems continues to be a challenge. The garage must consider how to bridge innovation to backend and legacy systems. Many startups, for example, offer exciting technology, but few organizations want to expose their backend data to a startup without assurances that an integrator in the innovation garage has the expertise to do it right.


5. What will be the key takeaways from your session and ultimately, what would you like the participants to do immediately after the event?

Key takeaways are our Garage model for Digital Reinvention, and the successful approaches and lessons learned we'll share around making it sustainable and scalable:

Build capability - incubating new ways of working, and building skills in key areas including Agile, devops, cloud, open source development, and automated testing
Focus on talent - shifting your team members' skills, and build a pipeline for new talent. Think big, start small, move fast - setting goals and delivering iterative value to stakeholders