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Open technologies: Applying open innovation with technology insight

  • Posted on September 30, 2021
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes
Applying Open Innovation To Open Tech

As Avanade launches an Open Technologies group, I'd like to expand on what the concept means and where the idea originated. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a lot of trends – for example, open collaboration & innovation like the Ventilator Challenge, where many global companies worked together to build ventilators for the UK National Health Service early in the pandemic. How do we identify the positive aspects of change that we want to keep as the pandemic wanes, and eventually fades?

Open innovation
We've seen a rise in collaboration between different industries and groups – including academic interactions, start-ups, and the open-source community. This concept – open innovation – is the practice of a company opening its R&D department to input from outside the company or employees from other departments within the organization.

By breaking down departmental barriers and making the walls around an organization almost invisible, we can create better ideas from a more diverse group. Removing these walls, changing how you think of intellectual property, working with others outside of your organisation, is a big leap – but by receiving more feedback, you can iterate faster and benefit from the contribution of minds that share different views and thought processes.

Since Dr. Henry Chesbrough coined the term in 2003, there have been many levels of inclusion described by 'open innovation' – from inter-company internal collaboration outside of a secretive lab, the intra-company partnership between multiple companies, to working out in the open with experts and the general public.

Microsoft and Accenture created Avanade, so we've collaborated with them from day one. That led to an open corporate culture, with information sharing and collaboration at our core.

So, what are open technologies?
The Linux Foundation describes open technologies as an inclusive community, allowing innovation to come from everywhere to address industry and technology challenges for the benefit of society.

We chose to adopt this term for Avanade's next step into research & development because we want to collaborate with a broad set of groups as a significant step-change for the way we work. Open technologies, therefore, goes beyond internal and intra-company collaboration. This builds on our history, encompassing an ecosystem of individual developers, universities, start-ups, standards organizations, our clients, our people, and the broader open-source community.

We’re changing our processes and policies to enable collaboration – bringing the latest open-source projects to our clients, but also giving our people time in the working day to contribute back to open-source. Our university partnering is now a core focus for us, and we’re training & hiring enthusiastic developer evangelists to support the whole organization in this transformation

What does this mean for Avanade?
We're putting a stake in the ground for a commitment to open source as a common good. As we establish an open-source projects office within the company, we're also affirming our commitment to advancing technology development, supporting our people, and facilitating the growth of a diverse and inclusive community of technologists.

Following the launch of Avanade’s Technology Leadership Career path last year, in 2021 we’ve begun to set up the Open-Source Projects office. Infusing open technologies into our culture will be a multi-year journey.

Why now?
I've led the Emerging Technology product and engineering team at Avanade for three years – and our greatest successes have involved collaboration with other groups.

We're focused on developing standards, working with the Green Software Foundation, the Digital Twin Consortium, and the 5G Open Innovation Lab. The process of standardization and the twin concepts of responsibility and collaboration directly contribute to creating innovations. In researching best practices from other organizations, I found an interesting fact – collaborating with external stakeholders has been proven as a highly effective way to disseminate and speed up the adoption of new standards. Organizations that collaborate with a broader community have seen up to 17% more output of new ideas and technologies, uplift employee engagement, and better financial performance. This doesn’t just benefit the community; it benefits everyone.

We're deeply passionate about early talent and working with academic groups on developing new technologies, as well as quantifying their impact. We've been developing pioneering blockchain and augmented reality projects with UCL, ideating for the Future Economy with the University of Exeter Business School, and developing the standards for building green software with the Green Software Foundation.

We have a dedicated ventures team focused on the start-up ecosystem. We explore new technologies early, whether testing new technologies like blockchain in SQL server or exploring the ethical and productivity implications of our work, such as Intelligent Code Creation.

In establishing an open-source projects office, and hiring dedicated developer evangelists, we want to contribute and be more than a passive consumer.

Frankly, setting up a group to focus on open technologies means confirming the way we've worked for several years.

Collaboration with as many bright minds and diverse groups as possible reduces development time, creates more successful ideas, and brings ideas to market faster.

Open Technologies means being just that: open. We're starting a new journey – and there's plenty of work ahead to learn and work with the broader ecosystem.

Want to find out more? Feel free to book a time to chat about how you could collaborate with us or jump right in on our GitHub.

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