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June 2007
Hot topics
Openness as accelerator for innovation and growth

For the second year running, Bull hosted a meeting of its major international customers on the 10-11 May 2007. The event took place this year in Barcelona, Spain – a country providing a particularly dynamic climate for business development, where Bull has major ambitions.

The theme of this year’s seminar was innovation, with equal focus on the role played by innovation in the competitive dynamic of the enterprise and the new conditions needed to encourage its growth and implementation.

Dr James Bellini, business analyst, TV broadcaster, writer and futurist, who refers to himself as a ‘historian of the future’, shared his vision of the fundamental changes that are currently revolutionizing the world: the first of these is the fact that innovation is no longer conditioned by technological factors. Above all, now, businesses must strive to satisfy the aspirations of each and every one of their customers. This involves mobilizing every available resource for knowing and understanding a customer base consisting of a complex group of individuals. The second major change is the advent of innovation networks, facilitated by the sharing of information on the Internet, and the creation of communities formed to fulfill specific needs, making available intelligence that one enterprise alone could never mobilize. To meet these requirements, open systems should help the enterprise tap into its customers’ aspirations and gather together the sum total of intelligence available through its networks.

Didier Lamouche, Bull’s Chairman and CEO, then recapped on Bull’s vision, highlighting firstly the emergence of new technologies and the virtually essential role now played by the Internet as the platform for exchanges – and increasingly for application development – on a global scale. One consequence of all this is that the evolution of the data center is now taking place at an unprecedented speed. Therefore, so-called ‘tera-architectures’ are starting to appear, enabled by the implementation of industry-standard technologies. Bull, having built the most powerful supercomputer ever designed in Europe, masters all the technologies needed to supply tomorrow’s ‘IT farms’. Didier Lamouche then summarized the major social impacts these revolutions are bringing about… the part that the Internet plays in our everyday lives, the growing numbers of individual players and social networks, and the ongoing risk of inequalities: so many factors that need to be acknowledged and acted upon. At the end of the day, the impacts on IT systems are multiple: performance, reliability, openness, are all new challenges of unprecedented magnitude. Bull’s founder role in this scenario is to tap into the world’s intelligence and then to harness it for its customers; its value proposition being “Liberate IT!”

How is innovation developing today? What impact do Open Source and communities have on the innovation cycle? For Kim Polese, SpikeSource CEO,– who helped launch Java and subsequently created a company that gave birth to some of the most widely-used Internet technologies on the market today – things are very clear: nothing is as it used to be. Innovation is now developing outside the four walls of the enterprise, through close partnerships involving market players and their customers. And Open Source has been an extraordinary catalyst for innovation to the extent that communities no longer ’clone’ existing software, but develop completely new applications. In conclusion, Kim Polese advised delegates to adopt collaborative technologies without delay, with the aim of creating areas for dialogue and innovation within the enterprise.

How is innovation developing within a large multi-national company? Jean-Pascal Aubert, the CIO of SITA – the world’s leading provider of IT business solutions and communication services for the air transport industry – summarized the keys to success: rapid experimentation, cultivating an alert and responsive user base (as users can often prove to be highly efficient agents within the innovation process), and implementing collaborative technologies. He also gave some very pragmatic recommendations: accept mistakes without looking back, don’t hesitate to mix new technologies with old in order to succeed in taking that crucial technical step forward and accelerate the innovation’s deployment.

The second session on Friday was devoted to Bull’s answering these challenges, with Jean-Pierre Barbéris, General Manager of Bull Services and Solutions, Philippe Miltin, Vice-President of Bull Products and Systems Division, and Hassan Maad, Managing Director of Bull Evidian. Jean-Pierre Barbéris dwelt on the very rapid development of innovation ecosystems (such as Open Source communities), technologies for collaboration, and easier, secure access to resources, as enabled by Bull’s solutions. Philippe Miltin broadly outlined Bull’s technological strategy, based around implementing systems for managing tomorrow’s data-processing factories. And Hassan Maad presented the new paradigms for deploying global security in the enterprise, both internally and externally.

Many of our customers were there to share their experiences of innovation: José Antonio Martin Pérez from the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office, Georgi Grigorov of the Bulgarian Customs and Excise agency, and Graham Horton from Nissan Europe all outlined their projects demonstrating Bull’s capacity as an ‘Architect of an Open World®’.

We can’t talk about innovation without showing some concrete examples! During the two days, several of Bull’s partners came to demonstrate some of their more remarkable technologies and applications. Bruno Flament from the French Atomic Energy Authority (CEA LETI) presented an astonishing man/machine interface technology based on micro-sensors, and Jérémy Farret from Parallel Geometry demonstrated a revolutionary approach for modeling systems in three dimensions. A special mention for Benoît Pouyet and Céline Bayer from Dassault Systems, who showed us how they had created their Internet site enabling the sharing of 3D objects, with Bull providing the technical platform for this application.

Barcelona 2007? Two days of high-speed exchanges, just a few hours before the Formula 1 Grand Prix was due to run the following Sunday. Bull in 2007? A company at the forefront of today’s major technological and social changes, bringing together innovation networks, and more than ever at the service of its customers.

Watch the video: Customer testimonials

Innovation: Open door to the future

Dr James Bellini, keynote speaker at Bull’s international seminar in Barcelona, analyzed the key changes taking place today in the area of innovation. Hereafter is an extract of his speech for the readers of Bull Direct.

The emergence of a new consumer psychology
We have seen in the past years a complete change in customer’s psychology. Customers no longer want to purchase products. They are looking for a deeper ‘customer experience’ that matches their own desires for personalisation and ‘authenticity’. We are living times when customers project their own personal aspirations when interacting with a supplier or a brand. They expect the interaction to be specific, personalized, and that it will bring them more than the actual product, in the areas of recognition, status, knowledge, networking, and so on.

A new approach to innovation
Therefore, the whole approach to innovation needs to be reworked. The timeline of change has taken us into brand new areas. One hundred years ago, all innovation was technology-driven. Companies invented a product and ‘hoped’ that customers would buy it. We may remember the Ford T concept, a greatly designed car, with high quality, that one could afford at the cost of not being able to choose any option, not even the colour. Then 50 years ago, we started talking about being customer-driven, which was about listening to customer needs and trying to group them into ‘market segments’, and addressing them with well-adapted products.
Those days are gone. Now, companies need to be ‘customer-outcome driven’. Market segments no longer exist, or they are starting to disappear at least. The digital revolution is making it possible for companies to develop a complete digital profile of customers (who they are?, what they want to be?, what they might buy?, etc.), enabling them to focus very precisely on individual customers and to target them with relevant selling propositions.

The ‘pull’ innovation model
For being competitive, companies must now have customer insights built into the innovatory process. We may define that as ‘outcome-driven innovation’, a concept built on the notion that you carry the externalisation to its furthest point, involving the customer at all stages and ensuring you measure the ‘value’ that the customer is going to put in the transaction.
In the 20th century, companies were innovating using a “push model”. They were trying to anticipate demand and were moving their scarce resources accordingly. In essence, companies attempted to minimize resource costs rather than pinpoint what customers actually wanted. Indeed, this model kind of prevented companies from experimenting or learning, because they were dealing with the fear of making mistakes or wasting resources.
The innovation model that will succeed in the future is based on generating ideas through a complex matrix of ‘externalized’ creative resources that can be customers, communities or even business partners. This is a ‘pull’ innovatory culture.

The rise of digital networks enables co-creation and innovation eco-systems
Technology is critical. It used to be the owner of innovation, is it now an enabler of a people-driven innovatory cycle. Digital networks are the enablers for this innovation to take place, by facilitating by orders of magnitude the collaboration between the various new players of the innovation cycle. Open Source Software, a critical part today of innovation in the software industry, would not have become possible without Internet technologies. Open technologies also enable co-creation to take place, as well as the development of networks of expertise and creativity. Today, we see Open Source projects moving into new areas, like the OScar project, which aims at designing a car using the collective intelligence of a community.

Digital networks and new customer behaviour are shaping the future innovation agenda
In conclusion, it is critical for companies to put in place the technology foundation to listen to their customers, to record the interactions they have with them. The same technology foundation will apply to the development of co-creation networks, leveraging communities and business partners.
And of course being prepared for the radical shift in consumer psychology is equally important, so that companies are ready to face the ‘aspirational customer” and the complexity of the business transactions that are associated. Companies must be prepared to deal with their customers not just based on information and data, but also and foremost on the basis of the history they had together.

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