crystal ball

Gazing into the Crystal Ball

JDA’s Crystal Ball event began last year across our two India-based Centers of Excellence to tackle the constant shift in technology head-on through our best asset – our people!

We are in our second year of the Crystal Ball events that have become a funnel for ideas that will fuel our product transformation and customer experience. We’ve expanded these beyond India into Monterrey, Mexico and most recently, Scottsdale as well.  Today, Akhila Dhamotharan offers a recap of Crystal Ball 2019 from our India CoEs.

The curtains have come down on Crystal Ball 2019 in India. What a great showcase! 120 ideas across two locations, with progress made on ideas from 2018, different zones to publicize our mobile-first strategy and SaaS transformation, as well as fun activities throughout the day which meant that hundreds of associates came in awe-struck and left inspired.

But how did this magic happen? 120 ideas cannot be cooked up at the last minute; hundreds of associates cannot be inspired to come up with new ideas weeks before the event. This is the result of a sustained program put in place in July 2018 to create a culture where innovation is every day and effortless.

An innovation culture is not just about ideas, it is also about knowing how to pitch the idea, networking to know the key stakeholders/influencers who can vet and sponsor the idea, having the destination and monetization of the idea in mind. From patents to product features to a new app, there many questions we must answer: how would we charge customers, would it be a reusable asset, can this be productionized on our servers etc. An innovative culture means a regular pipeline of rich ideas, not just for a showcase event, but to ensure we have a strong IP portfolio for the company.

Here are the ways we made it happen.

Innovation does not happen in vacuum.

Innovation needs the curiosity, empathy, burdens and frustration of everyday roles to spark creativity. And hence we cannot separate out delivery responsibility from our creative responsibility.  We saw this in Crystal Ball 2019.  While some associates’ empathy to customer problems drove them to find better solutions, others’ frustration at the amount of monotonous work involved in problem-solving and fixing issues triggered them to innovate around automation. Yet others, curious about the consequences of a different approach completely re-designed the way we think about supply chain problems.

How did we get there? We had a lot to do and changing the mindset of our associate base was the foremost among them!

Fostering an innovation mindset

We created an overarching innovation program called Mission Genie with the objective of making internal innovations a source of growth for JDA. To help our team of innovators generate new ideas, learn new skills (pitching, networking, prototyping) and inspire innovators to take their ideas to the finish line, we did several things:

Events: A multitude of events through the year meant innovation was an everyday affair! Whether it was a mini quiz, “Shark Tanks” or a hackathon, there was a constant hum!

A word about the significance of Shark Tank here. Crystal Ball is a showcase of prototypes that innovators have built to solve the problem at hand. This is a fantastic forum for our technical folks to showcase their talent. Yet, we also have a large section of associates who work directly with customers/prospects and are aware of the customer needs, solutions demanded by our prospects in the market but who may not always be skilled to build a prototype to solve the problem. With the Shark Tank event, we invited associates across the organization to pitch to a panel about a problem they have witnessed/experienced and why it is important for JDA to solve it. This event attracted associates from all the Services teams and we built a pipeline of 60 challenges along with possible solution approaches.

This became one of the feeder events to the hackathon. The problem statements for the hackathon came from the Shark Tank, from our mobile-first strategy, and other problems that the departments were working on. As the registrations came in, we were surprised by the collaboration across departments and the teams that decided to build it themselves by learning new tech! The hackathon was as amazing for us to host as it was for the innovators to solve real-life problems!

Programs: We ran the following programs diligently every month:

Webinars – The goal was to introduce associates to a wide variety of information and stories on innovation, such as ‘are innovators born or made?’ and ‘Digging for Innovation Gold.’

Genie Bar – This is a patents program where patent-holders reached out to teams every month and created awareness about how to file patents, debunking myths about what kind of ideas can be patented and inspiring each team to look for patent-worthy work they may have just released!

Inspire to Innovate – this is a newbie introduction program which was embedded into the HR New Associate Orientation, where some of our innovators met new hires to introduce them to Mission Genie, share their innovation experiences and inspire them to innovate regardless of which department they belonged to, how tenured they were and anything else they thought would be a handicap!

Habitats: We built an internal SharePoint site filled with stories of our innovators and their journeys, book summaries, video recommendations, information about upcoming events etc. We also created an internal Yammer group to have conversations, publicize events, host mini challenges, and quizzes.

Processes: Last, but not the least, we worked on creating processes to manage innovation. We put together a map to navigate the terrain of innovation at JDA! This helps associates understand where they are in the lifecycle of an idea, think about what the destination of their idea should be and how they can move towards it. We already have a robust Ideas Portal and we are working on ways to make it a great portal by supporting events, having experts provide feedback, ability to provide dashboards and reports and more.

What outcomes have we seen from this program? Of course, a fantastic Crystal Ball that raised the bar, but also greater grassroots participation, cross-functional team collaboration, and non-technical associates learning & using simulation/prototyping software.

But best of all? We smashed the record for patents filed in a year in India*! From six patents filed in 2017 and similar numbers in the previous years, we filed 14 patents in 2018! The bar gets higher as we work towards filing 24 patents this year!

What does the future behold? Well, gazing into the Crystal Ball, we can see two things clearly – stronger focus on moving ideas to invoices and greater emphasis on aligning innovations to our strategic direction. As we mirror the Crystal Ball events in other locations across the company, innovation is becoming more and more our growth mindset for the future at JDA.

* Patents filed – count

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