Archive for the ‘Innovation management’ Category

An innovation network in action

January 22, 2016

News that  GAVI (the global vaccine alliance) is supporting development of an Ebola vaccine is noteworthy because GAVI consitutes an example of an innovation network.  It brings together a number of different players in the field of pharmaceuticals and public health and its partnership model is at the core of its activities, recognising that in this field there are many different organisations which make different contributions.

Retro no more

January 22, 2016

A few years ago I blogged about Friends Reunited (one of a fair number of online services past and present that I’ve personally never joined) as a ‘retro social network‘. Now it’s being closed entirely, an example of how something which was once popular can disappear completely, and an opportunity to wonder what sort of value first ITV, and then D C Thomson, gained from the network while they owned it.  The founders are still planning new social networks, but they are looking to enter a much more crowded market so I wonder how successful they will be.

Flat-pack ready meals

March 19, 2015

Last week with my MSc economics students we spent some time brainstorming different business models for delivering groceries ordered online.  Internet supermarkets such as Ocado, or Tesco’s online presence, adopt one model which combines the range of products that you’d find in a mainstream supermarket, with home delivery.  Asda’s enterprise at London Underground stations is a neat variation of this, and from the supermarket’s viewpoint is a low-cost bolt-on to their existing model because if you can load up a van with groceries for home delivery, you can also load up a van to be serve commuters passing through the station car park.

But there are also models which vary the approach to supplying the food.  The fresh vegetable suppliers, Abel and Cole and Riverford, are examples of this.  So is Hubbub, which works on sourcing food from small retailers.  Interestingly, they compare themselves to Ocado, which is undoubtedly valid in terms of their target market and the importance of service.  However their approach to logistics is at the opposite end of the scale to Ocado, who seek to gain economies of scale by serving a very large number of customers from a single distribution centre, and indeed by working with Morrisons in parallel to its own brand operations in conjunction with Waitrose.

One other model which is worth a look is exemplified by a company called Gousto.  Like Ocado it was set up by former bankers and it has now attracted some investment from Unilever.  The idea is that they deliver a box of ingredients, together with the recipe, so that customer can cook their own meal but can follow the recipe precisely.  I guess that part of the inspiration for this comes from flat-pack furniture, where you can buy a box containing all the components of your furniture but you still need to put it together.  Think of Gousto’s boxes as a flat-pack ready meal

Microsoft’s latest acquisition

September 15, 2014

Having bought Nokia’s mobile phone business,Microsoft have made another acquisition in Scandinavia.  The logic behind them taking over the developers of Minecraft seems clear enough, given the popularity of this particular virtual world, but the statement by Minecraft’s creator makes very interesting reading.

E-government taking shape

June 14, 2013

The Guardian’s video on e-government has a slight touch of the infomercial about it, but still it does cover some useful issues about the development process, and if you can mediate your viewing of it through the rather uncritical presentation, then it is worth reviewing as a case study of e-government.  Significantly, when I viewed it on the Guardian website, I was served with a banner advert for some perfumed inspired by James Bond, perhaps the UK government’s most famous fictional employee.

Return of the dumb-phone

June 14, 2013

Browsing the BBC website for stories around mobile technology, it was good to see one which covers both the continuing use of more traditional mobile phones (feature phones to use the currently favoured term) and the role of technology in the developing world.  When I first read about the bus-tracking service, I wondered whether part of the concept was to ‘crowdsource’ the determination of where each bus was, by asking users to report on the position of buses.  But it turns out that GPS receivers are cheap enough, and presumably GPS coverage is good enough in Indian cities, that a simple GPS box in the bus can be used to provide data.


June 14, 2013

Apple’s latest update to its operation system has brought the word skeuomorphism into the public eye.  Some of the choices of image used in the interfaces for smartphones do look quaint, most notably the microphone used to denote when a phone is operating as a recording device, which appears more like something from the 1930s than anything more recent.  My Android phone has a simple voice recorder behind an icon of a tape-recorder with giant open reels, which is perhaps more of an artefact of the 1970s that some of Android’s developers might remember.

The move away from this approach towards a simpler, blockier, set of icons caught my eye because, in Apple’s implementation, it does seem to copy some of the look and feel of Windows phone.  Which, given that over the years, and going right back to the inception of Windows 95, I’ve heard grumbles that Windows tends to copy ideas which had been used in earlier products from Apple, is a significant reversal or roles

Blackberry and the future

April 30, 2013

This piece about what BlackBerry’s CEO might or might not have said is interesting, both from a disruptive innovation viewpoint (my take is that BlackBerry is still searching around for a new product, and a business model, that will be as distinctive as its traditional offerings, and that despite heavy advertising its most recent products are likely to be perceived as ‘just another touch-screen phone) and for the discussion below the line, which ranges from reflections on the authenticity of the quote, to thoughts about the future of the sector (including a comparison with Digital Equipment in the 1970s, who didn’t think that personal computers would continue to be important)

Dell and the future

April 30, 2013

For some time I’ve been wondering what the future might hold for Dell computers, given that their business has always been based around a world where the personal computer is a key repository for the sort of documents and data that are now increasingly being held in the cloud.  This was brought into focus earlier this year by Dell’s transition from being a public to a private company.  This piece from the Economist is an interesting reflection on Dell’s future, not least for the anecdote with which it opens.

Centralised or not?

April 29, 2013

Many of my students will have worked through the example of Ocado as a case study in e-business.  There are lots of issues around it, but one of the key issues is to contrast Ocado, which has a fundamental business model based initially around a single fulfillment centre in Hatfield, not far north of London, with the business model adopted by Tesco for internet shopping, which was fundamentally highly decentralised and used local shops as distribution centres.  The aim is not to present one approach as intrinsically superior to the other, although it’s surprising how often some students do defend a preference for one or another as though it’s a religious belief.  Rather, it’s to show that this sort of decision does affect the type of strategy that an Internet supermarket should pursue.  And also that each of these supermarkets chose their strategy in response to a particular set of conditions.

Of course students often point out that the Ocado model isn’t quite as centralised as it looks.  For a start there is now a second major distribution centre in the midlands.  But also the centralised system depends on a hub and spoke approach.  One of the smaller depots that acts as a spoke is in Byfleet in Surrey.  Those with knowledge of the area will recognise this as the sort of affluent, reasonably well-populated territory that Ocado sets out to serve, and those with inclinations towards systems thinking may recognise this as where Stafford Beer lived.

Ocado is also interesting because of the (at times rather fraught) relationship with Waitrose.  But it’s significant that perhaps the partnership with Ocado paved the way for Waitrose own-brand goods to be sold through a variety of outlets.  This move to sell Waitrose products on Eurostar services between London and the continent provides another outlet for their brand, along with the rather entertaining idea that a French or Belgian visitor to Britain could dine on a Waitrose Croque Monsieur on the way.