Sunday, April 06, 2008

Global Open Innovation in Biotech

The role of global collaboration and open innovation has changed during the past few years. The continued growth of Internet technologies, network-based applications and IP-based communications has made it possible for small and innovative companies and people to play a much more important role today than it did a number of years ago.

Distributed co-creators can perform a variety of roles, depending on the organization of a joint-venture. We can however today undertake very complex tasks and create ad-hoc crowd-sourced organizations to solve problems over a large distance. Proximity to the problem isn't essential anymore.

Most big companies are managed by top-down models and are by origin very centralized. They use branches simply to house employees that do not happen to be in the same local region. We look at the "branches" from a new perspective. It's a way to organize knowledge based problem solving.

For the top-down types of organizations, the role of branches is tactical and, although important, they are not critical to the organization.

For us, the branches are a much more strategic component of our growth plans. Our idea is to organize problem solving and knowledge management on a global scale for some specific purposes.

Consumer-facing retail and financial services firms are examples of organizations where the operations of the branch play a key role in the organization’s success. These distributed enterprises have the following characteristics:
  • The majority of employees reside in branch locations away from corporate headquarters.
  • Branch locations generate much of the organization’s revenue.
  • The decision-making responsibility for the operations of the branch rests at the corporate level.
  • Little to no IT staff exists at the branch. The administration and maintenance of technology is often done by dispatched technicians or remotely from corporate headquarters.
We are not "retailing" but the organizational model and the way IT is employed has the same characteristics.
  • Because branches are geographically dispersed, there is the potential for the operational costs to be much higher than necessary.
This isn't true in our case. It would be much more expensive to "draw all the talent to one spot".
  • Because most branch office purchasing is done without regard to the technologies in the other locations, the customer experience varies widely from branch to branch.
  • A consistent experience enables customers to understand what to expect whenever they visit the company.
A big company has to think in these terms. We allow the individual players to remain individual while it provides a much bigger diversity of the services.
  • Solutions built for branch offices are often complex and nonstandard. This makes remote maintenance difficult and costly.
This is true, but today's IT infrastructure offers plenty of tools for easy-to-use collaboration and co-creation. Problems aren't so much related to the "tools" but to how people value "openness and crowd-sourcing."
  • Technology needs to be rolled out quickly. Branches (partners) often need to “go live” with a new initiative rapidly, leaving only a small window of opportunity to deploy new technology. Lack of availability of a new technology could equal lost revenue.
The concept of a truly distributed enterprise is gaining traction. We don't spend time trying to "organize" and "taylorize" collaboration. Simple, easy to use tools are available and we stick to those. It's the individuals abilities and know-how that has greatest value.
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