Innovation in a Down Economy—RSA 2009
Yesterday at the RSA conference a group of Symantec executives and technologists met with industry influencers to discuss a broad collection of topics, ranging from innovation to reputation to virtualization. It was a pretty interesting discussion and I'd like to focus on one particular aspect that is near and dear to me—the importance of maintaining innovation momentum in a down economy. There are plenty of historical examples that show that companies that innovate through tough times emerge with a strong and sustainable advantage over those that don't. An interesting point, but I think there is more compelling evidence that sustained innovation is the smart thing to be doing right now.
Someone once said that there are two kinds of products in the world: those that cost a dollar but help you earn five dollars, and those that cost a dollar but help you save five dollars. Both are valid value propositions, but in this economy it's not too surprising that people are increasingly interested in saving $5. Couple that with an increasing interest in Green IT and I see huge opportunities for innovation. For example, recent industry data shows that average storage utilization in the data center is less than 40%! Why buy more hardware, pay higher energy bills, and increase administration costs when 60% of your storage is idle? We've put, and are continuing to put, a ton of effort into innovative solutions in that area. They're needed now more than ever. You know what they say about necessity.
Looking for ways to be more efficient is always a good avenue for innovation, but it's certainly not the only one. Think about the last 40 or so years of computing. Every time a new style of computing became prominent it brought a host of benefits and a whole new set of challenges (or new variants of the old ones). This happened with the rise of minicomputers, then with the client/server model, and it will happen again with cloud computing. Entire companies were built around these style shifts and similarly, a great deal of innovation is going to be required to unleash the full potential of cloud computing. We're going to have to deal with questions of confidentiality, data integrity, availability, multi-tenancy, compliance, policy control, reputation, identity, and more. We shouldn't let the current economic turmoil cloud our perspective of the opportunities ahead of us.
As an industry and as an economy we can come out of the downturn stronger if we focus our innovation efforts on leveraged value. Now is the time to continue innovating, and not take our foot off of the gas pedal.