Innovation at Gfi is a structured process with clear results. Our approach is based on two principles: giving the Group and its customers a view of their digital strategy two years ahead, and bringing out solutions that will have a place in the market.
Observation and cooperation
Corporate innovation is no longer the preserve of R&D. On the contrary, innovation must be as open as possible. Today, companies today are aware of their ecosystem, and work with their partners with the firm intention of growing together and for the long term. Given that innovation crosses borders, Gfi has designed its own pragmatic innovation process to explore technologies, some of them disruptive, that are about to become standard in companies. To achieve this, the Group has set up a trend observatory that specifically looks at start-ups and the incredible agility that enables them to focus on the essential: the technologies of tomorrow. But observation is just a first step. The end goal is to introduce new skills and technological components into projects that have reached maturity, through an industrial process. This is the purpose of the Connect & Develop programme founded by Gfi, which is built on clearly defined legal partnerships with young, high-potential companies.
We don’t only watch start-ups. We also monitor the industrial and academic landscape without which no innovation would see the light of day. Partnerships with engineering schools and scientific research institutions enable us to explore the possibilities without competitive or market-launch pressure. This helps us to forecast with even greater efficiency. On the other hand, industrial partnerships help us to identify the most urgent demands for innovations that can immediately be implemented on a given market.
Finally, what would technological innovation be without innovation in the workplace? Gfi recruits the best profiles for its teams with the intention of developing their skills. These women and men might very well create some of our greatest innovations. Identifying them and carrying their ideas through to completion is a challenge, even a mission. And to succeed in this ongoing quest for innovation, Gfi has implemented a structured process backed by an actively involved managers.
Proceeding with method
In recent years, four highly structured phases have been taking the most promising innovations forward at Gfi. But each step has to be followed rigorously! This thorough process is headed by the innovation committee that is divided into four sections. The innovation unit’s task is to detect the best ideas and do a first screening. The unit is also responsible for relationships with partners, and relies on dynamic, multi-partner input to fulfil its mission. Employees, PhD students, start-ups, and institutional partners like Europe, the French government and local authorities, not to mention its most involved customers all enable Gfi and its innovation unit to do a thorough job both in terms of detection and in building out partnerships.
Open innovation also entails legal issues, for instance intellectual property rights, which have to be handled with the utmost circumspection.
Once an idea has been recognised as pertinent, the funding unit decides whether the opportunity should be taken to fund the design of a proof of concept. To assess the feasibility of a project, the Innovation Lab is asked to produce models, test the idea and the concept, and put together a functional and technical brief. If the results are conclusive, the innovation services centre can proceed with the industrialisation of the product. Gfi’s sales and marketing departments then handle its market launch. Commercial success also depends on the considerable amount of collaborative work with industrial partners, as illustrated by the following examples.
Company Hub is one of the most typical examples, based on the complementary expertise of three digital players – Nokia, Microsoft and Gfi. Or to put it in another way, top-quality devices associated with powerful technology and a comprehensive service offer. This portal that gives employees access to their company’s information system is an undeniable success today, with new work practices emerging. A mere two years ago, telecommuting and BYOD were not yet widespread trends among companies. Today, many are recognising the benefits in terms of modularity and efficiency.
City Hub, the dedicated portal for regional governments and citizens, is based on the same accessibility principle as Company Hub, and is perhaps an even more tangible illustration of our innovation teams’ anticipation and foresight capacity. Gfi recognised the connected, mobile citizen sufficiently early to address the growing need for interconnectivity in cities.
BI2BI is another powerful solution to come out of Gfi’s innovation process. When new BI solutions started appearing, and with them business-oriented approaches for forecasting analyses that they could access, Gfi already anticipated the challenges that migration would pose. Intended to facilitate and accelerate the migration from one business intelligence solution to another, BI2BI addresses the issues facing companies that want to let their employees benefit from major advances in BI, without letting migration turn into a logistical nightmare.