Innoboard: There is no consistent definition for innovation. Each industry and each department perceives it differently. How do you define innovation at Swisscom?
Egon Steinkasserer: We, at Swisscom, define ‘innovation’ by means of a simple formula: innovation = idea + successful implementation. To generate and develop ideas is pretty easy compared with the challenge of implementing and bringing these ideas to fruition. And this is not only the view of an established company; start-ups also share this experience. Additionally, innovation is not only about disruptive concepts or ideas that are new to the world. As a matter of fact, transferring innovations from one region to another and adapting them to local ecosystems and needs is already an enormous challenge. We, at Swisscom, do not limit ourselves to certain categories of innovation. Change needs to happen everywhere and, therefore, there are many innovation categories: products, services, processes, business models, technologies, sales channels and customer experience. Moreover, most innovations, such as product innovations, are also accompanied by prerequisite or complementary innovations in other categories.
In your opinion, what are the most important factors of a company’s innovation management?
In most cases, innovation does not happen randomly. Instead, innovations can usually be traced back to dedicated and capable employees who pursue precise targets in focused innovation fields. Personally, I am convinced that teams that work well together and that are surrounded by the right corporate culture can regularly deliver innovations over decades. Corporate culture is a highly relevant topic. Innovation mostly involves major changes. It often happens that individuals are not open to these changes and therefore resist. Hence it is crucial for innovation teams to shape the corporate mindset by means of active stakeholder management and great power of endurance.
In the fast-moving communications market, which technologies and trends influence the telecommunications industry and Swisscom the most?
Swisscom offers a wide range of information and communication technology (ICT) solutions. We provide wireline, wireless, TV and Internet-based services as well as professional services and software products for enterprise customers. In order to meet the expectations of our customers, we have to observe a large variety of upcoming trends and innovative technologies. FTTx-Technologies, for example g.fast, Vectoring or 5G, the next generation of mobile data, are highly relevant issues for our further development. Equally important are trends and technologies, such as high speed WiFi, UHD in 4K and also in 8K in the future, augmented and virtual reality. Also big data and artificial intelligence are vital for shaping our future. In addition, cloud-based technologies, e.g. SDN, NFV and cloud-native software are crucial for our future success. Simultaneously, we are adapting our methods of working. Agile approaches, DevOps, Everything as a Service (XaaS) are changing our organizational and operational structure permanently.
Do you see an opportunity in the large volume of Swisscom data to enable new services and value propositions for your customers?
Swisscom’s data is an enabler to further improve our services and to develop smart products for our customers. For example, they should never be faced with technical issues, regardless of whether those problems are rooted in our organization or are caused by third parties. Smart monitoring and robotic process automation (RPA) are important building blocks contributing to this vision. Based on machine learning, we can improve network security and provide proactive services. This also enables us to consider our customers’ perspective even further and so we can develop smarter products. For example, we enable the Swiss Federal Roads Office (FEDRO) to comprehensively monitor the traffic on highways. In addition, our smart city solutions provide substantial value to urban development. In the past, decisions in urban development were often based on uncertain assumptions and very limited data points. Based on anonymized insights derived from our network data, cities can take well-grounded and hence sustainable decisions.
What is your personal goal regarding innovation for the next 12 months?
In saturated markets, cost management is increasingly gaining importance. Therefore, our roadmap for the next few months focuses on operational excellence in terms of efficiency and effectiveness as well as customer value. Customer value in this context means, in particular, customer retention, best experience, proactive service and smart products. Additionally, we will enhance ‘problem solving innovation’ in our teams. Furthermore, the automatization of knowledge work will also become more important.
About the Interviewee:
Egon Steinkasserer is Head of Innovation at Swisscom AG since the beginning of 2014. He joined the company in 2013 as Head of Software Development. Previously to that, he worked in Würth Phoenix, the software and consulting company of Würth Group, in the role of Chief Technology Officer (CTO). He brings profound know-how in the development of ERP, CRM, business intelligence, cloud and system management solutions. After studying computer science at the University of Saarland, Egon Steinkasserer, who was born in South Tyrol (Italy) in 1972, he has developed software in senior positions, including Semiramis and SAP.