My dad got his Ph.D. when he was 61. He got his master’s degree at 58. And his bachelor’s degree when he was 45.
Today he is 76, and teaches robotics safety at companies like IBM and Global Foundries. He’s still learning and innovating today. He is my primary inspiration for urging and encouraging continuous learning for everyone I know, including myself.
Why do I bring that up?
Pitney Bowes is in the midst of a global transformation toward innovating around client outcomes. Of course we continue to innovate on products, analytics, and solutions. But it’s our ability to drive outcomes that has the greatest potential to delight our clients.
The notion of innovating around and selling outcomes is popular at conferences these days. I was recently at an industry conference where much of the talk was about doctors, hospitals and healthcare companies getting paid by health outcomes as opposed to visits or treatments. Similar discussions are taking place in education, financial services, transportation and many other fields.
But it isn’t easy.
Creating great outcomes require sophisticated craftsmanship. Expertise in technology, APIs, IoT, and advanced analytics are all important parts of the equation. They are necessary, but by themselves are not sufficient. Success requires operating at the intersection of business and technology, with deep industry know-how. The days of professional advancement by being a generalist – with a little bit of knowledge about a broad range of topics – are beginning to fade. Clients want experts.
That’s where continuous learning comes in. In recognizing the need to develop experts, in 2015 Pitney Bowes invested in training more than 1,100 of our worldwide technology innovators across nine important technology disciplines: APIs, big data, data science, Internet of Things, mobile, SaaS (software as a service), security, user experience and virtual hardware design.
Each employee on our global innovation team had to select a single discipline and stick with it for at least a full year. Moreover, the curricula weren’t based on textbooks or theory. Instead, they were created and taught by co-workers who had demonstrated excellence in these areas, focusing on real-world client issues and opportunities. We call it our Strategic Foundational Technology curriculum.
At the same time, Pitney Bowes has been developing and emphasizing the use of internal global collaboration tools that incorporate wikis, social, video meetings, and more. Together, these tools and education have had an intentional benefit: Sharing of data and information within and across our global team is rising steeply. People who are training together are forming new bonds and gaining greater appreciation of the power of teams. I have no doubt that this is accelerating and improving our innovation efforts – and helping us create increased value for our clients.
While this was already happening inside Pitney Bowes, in early 2015, one of my close colleagues shared a paper with me from the IT research firm Gartner, entitled: “The Renaissance Developer: Skills Guidance for Modern Application Programmers.” This article was a completely independent – and beautifully written – validation of what we were doing in-house. It was inspiring to see Gartner reach the same conclusion we did.
(Don’t let the title fool you. The Renaissance Developer doesn’t only apply to developers. I’d be hard pressed to think of a single profession or discipline at a technology company that wouldn’t benefit from its lessons. After all, we all can be innovators.)
The shift toward innovating around client outcomes isn’t just the latest trend or a new idea from marketing. It is recognition of a new marketplace reality of power shifting to consumers.
Not long ago, vendors had a lot of control. Today, consumers can look up pricing and services from the comfort of their offices or homes and have any number of vendors compete for their business. Consumers also know more about vendors’ successes, practices, policies, management and environmental practices than ever before. I like to say the world isn’t flat; it’s tilted toward consumers. And the tilt is likely to increase for the foreseeable future.
This is one of the major reasons for innovating on outcomes. It demonstrates an understanding of client environments. It demands that you create an empathy for the client, and what is important to them. Doing this well can be a major source of differentiation for a company and its a brand.
Key to successfully developing client outcomes is investing in a global workforce - in programs and tools that encourage continuous learning and innovation to help clients succeed.
Hmm…that sounds familiar. Thanks Dad.
Follow James on Twitter: @JAFairweather