Creative Juices FreshSqueezed Examples of Innovation

The Doyle Report: Fresh-Squeezed Examples of Technological, Social and Organizational Innovation

A look at Cisco, Anchor Networks and Silicon Slopes

What do a Silicon Valley stalwart, a scrappy managed service provider from Denver and a non-profit organization from Utah all have in common? They are all exemplars of the power of innovation.

Let’s start with Cisco. Actually make that AWS, Google and Microsoft—three companies that get cloud computing. Cisco? Not nearly as much. Cisco, in this instance, is an example of a company not innovating at the rate it needs to maintain its leadership position in the market.

How can I make such a charge? Well, this week’s disclosure that revenue for the current quarter could slip 4-6 percent is one reason. (Cisco shares fell 8.2 percent before recovering somewhat.) The other? The company’s late 2016 concession that it would stop offering public cloud services in 2017.

Try as it might, Cisco just isn’t positioned for taking advantage of cloud computing. Not ideally, anyway. But don’t just take my word for it. Consider the thoughts of former Cisco partner programs architect, Surinder Brar.

Brar is a Penton Xpert and longtime friend. (Full disclosure: Brar and I worked together often when I was at Cisco between 2006 and 2013.)

Earlier this month, Brar wrote an editorial that examined why big companies fail to innovate at the same speed as startups. In “Lack of Innovation Leads to Acquisition Sprees,” he examines the likes of HPE, IBM and Oracle. But he zeroes in on Cisco, which he knows best.

Surinder Brar

Brar notes that Cisco’s revenue has slumped despite the fact that it has bought roughly 45 companies in the past five years. The acquisitions, of course, were supposed to transform Cisco into a more vibrant, software-oriented company. While they have helped grow some sales, they have not offset the losses sustained by the company’s hardware divisions, which still depend on large, one-time sales of equipment to big customers.

The problem, Brar says, is lack of innovation. Over time, corporate giant’s lose touch with their customers’ needs, focus on incremental improvements, defend existing revenue streams to the point of myopia and otherwise under-fund transformational projects that won’t provide a return on investment for years to come.

“…My own observation is that large technology companies are fundamentally tied down by their internal biases and processes that only support incremental innovation in their core areas, which eventually always face a declining market,” writes Brar. “They are trapped inside their existing ecosystem, which is built around their core portfolio, and they do not have a mechanism to support game-changing innovations that typically occur at the edges of their ecosystem.”

It’s a lesson for us all.

Which brings me to Anchor Networks Solutions, a social media innovator in the making.

Anchor is Vince Tinnirello’s company. It operates out of Lone Tree, Colo., and has been around since January of 2002.

Tinnirello is well know in the MSP community and participates in events such as CompTIA’s Channelcon on a regular basis. He made a name for himself by staking out some controversial positions in the MSP space. Early on, for example, Tinnirello made it a practice to give away expertise in the form of free network assessments. That went against every bit of expert advice at the time. But Tinnirello defended the practice. “Some people think I’m crazy for giving away free advice,” he writes on his website. “They say, ‘Aren’t you afraid people will just take advantage of you?’ The truth is, some people might—but I know that MOST of our clients are just honest people trying to find someone they can trust.”

Vince Tinnirello, Anchor Network Solutions

Recently, Anchor Network Solutions debuted a bunch of new videos on YouTube promoting the company’s support of cloud computing. If you haven’t seen them, they are pretty funny—and effective. Rather than defend a traditional way of computing, these videos position Anchor at the forefront of cloud computing for small businesses. There is no subtlety in the messaging, which makes them innovative.

See for yourself in one video here.

Lastly, let’s look at organizational influence.

In mid May, Silicon Slopes, a Utah-based non-profit opened a new office in Lehi, Utah, complete with a ribbon ceremony featuring Utah Governor Gary Herbert. While a new office may not sound like big a deal, it actually is in Utah, my home state.

Silicon Slopes has played an instrumental role in helping to transform Utah’s once struggling tech community (am talking after the demise of Novell and WordPerfect and before the rise Omniture) into a true national powerhouse. In April, Forbes writer Amy Feldman visited Lehi and noted the following:

“Among the state’s more than 4,000 tech startups, at least four are unicorns, venture-backed companies valued at more than $1 billion: Pluralsight, Qualtrics, Domo (founded by Josh James, who’d previously founded Omniture), and InsideSales. Many more could become billion-dollar companies if the stars align.”

So how did Silicon Slopes help pull this off? By deftly knitting together tech companies, government agencies and private investors. Its focus on helping to nourish startups along the Wasatch Front was particularly clever. In doing to, it has drawn attention to the I-15 corridor between Salt Lake City and Provo and provided a voice for practitioners who are regularly showcased in its podcasts, magazine and more.

“We’re only a couple of months into 2017, but already it’s shaping up to be another seminal year for Utah’s startup community,” says Silicon Slopes executive director Clint Betts. “There’s never been more money, talent or resources available to startups in Utah’s history.”

Innovative, right?

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