Vol.29 From system developer to value creator The Solutions Center, Striving for Value Co-Creation


#01 Creating business producers that bring innovations Developing Engineers for the Age of DX Kiyoshi Takemoto Chief Technology Executive Toshiba Digital Solutions Corporation

ICT systems include Systems of Record (SoR), such as enterprise systems, which emphasize stability and reliability and strive to reduce operation costs while improving efficiency, and Systems of Engagement (SoE), which emphasize flexibility, expandability, and the ability to respond rapidly to change, and seek to create new value and transform business. The bimodal IT approach understands the features of SoR and SoE and uses them as appropriate.
Toshiba Digital Solutions supports customer’s digital transformation (DX) and IT modernization*, and has been at the forefront of bimodal IT. At our Solutions Center, we are carrying out initiatives that develop the SoE capabilities of engineers with extensive experience in SoR system development, turning them into digital talent that implement bimodal IT.
Why do we develop talent? What kind of talent do we seek to develop? In this issue, we present an overview of the new training being introduced in the Solutions Center.

* Our IT modernization initiatives are introduced in Vol.28.

Innovators are needed in the world of SI as well

Who created the personal computer, which has become an essential part of our work and daily lives? The first person to clearly outline the concept was the computer scientist, Alan Kay. Almost 50 years ago, Kay advocated a dynamic vision of ideals of personal computers – small, thin, easy to use, and ubiquitous. Many people, inspired by this concept, began developing what are now known as personal computers.

The world of system integration (SI) has also entered into an age in which people await innovators such as Alan Kay. These innovators will be people who predict the future of technology, shape the innovations that are the driving force for growth, create feasible plans, and have spirits and skills to carry out concrete development. These innovators are needed because of the dramatic changes that are occurring in the business and ICT environments.

In the age of DX, mobile computing, big data, social media, and cloud computing (the so-called "third platform") are being used to create new value and to transform business activities. This is creating a budding demand for "bimodal IT," in which two separate ICT systems are coordinated and used as appropriate depending on their individual features, whether it be "offensive IT or defensive IT" or "SoR or SoE" (Fig.1).

Fig. 1 ICT systems in the age of digital transformation

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The key to develop digital engineers

In their developmental and operational work, conventional SI engineers have focused on systems that optimize the efficiency of fixed operations. Enterprise systems are the most typical examples of these systems, which are called SoR. The Solutions Center, a Toshiba Digital Solutions software development site, has been accurately identified customer demands and created systems those meet such demands for many years, developing systems with high quality and stable operation.

Expectations are now rising for SoE – systems that are focused on flexibility and agility and that create new value and transform business. In the internet business field, in particular, there are countless new businesses being developed that use state-of-the-art digital technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). It is not unusual to see new companies start up new services in short periods of time due to the growth of Open Source Software (OSS) and cloud computing. Social Networking Services (SNS) are connecting people to each other, and online shopping services are connecting products and customer preferences. SoEs are creating completely new relationships of trust and bonds, both in the business sphere and in people's day-to-day lives.

In addition to carrying out development in the SoR field of conventional "on-consignment SI business," our Solutions Center enhances system development in the SoE field. The Solutions Center does not only provides value such as greater operation efficiency or productivity, but it also carries out "co-creation SI business" initiatives that use the latest ICT to build new value and create business together with customers.

In these initiatives, it does not focus only on the technology field. The Solutions Center recognizes "digital talents" as a key to the age of DX. The "digital talents" are engineers with SoR knowledge and experience as well as new SoE capabilities such as high innovation aims and innovation expertise, who realize bimodal IT.

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Toshiba's engineers possessing innovator qualities

Why do we focus on talent development? There are two reasons. The first is that there are major differences in the characteristics of SoR and SoE systems, as well as the approaches used in their development. Waterfall-type development, which focuses on reliability and stability and is carried out by systematically implementing plans, is well suited to SoR. However, the main objective of SoE is the improvement of corporate competitive capabilities by creating new value. Because of this, agile development, which excels at responding to change, is effective for SoE. Engineers involved in SoE system development must have the ability to constantly search for what is effective and beneficial and to flexibly and agilely turn it into reality. It is not easy to gain skills in this new area on their own for engineers that have leaded teams with their exceptional leadership and implementation strengths, achieving missions through their precise operations.

The second reason is our conviction that the Solutions Center’s engineers have the potential to be next-generation innovators. To carry out DX through business digitalization, it is essential to earnestly tackle customers' true issues and launch concrete activities aimed at realizing objectives. Our Solutions Center's engineers have developed extensive operational knowledge and know-how in the actual field through their involvement in developing, operating, and maintaining systems for the manufacturing and social infrastructure fields. They have been involved in everything from upstream development processes to final field coordination and follow-up. They have seen all aspects of these systems from the perspective nearest that of customers themselves. Based on these experiences, they can earnestly take on challenges from customer perspectives, proposing new value that will be truly effective for customers, and implement this new value in the form of solutions. This is why we use our organization's strengths to polish our engineers, who already have deep knowledge and experience, into innovators.

Over the past year, we have swiftly launched a wide variety of training activities, such as conventional software development technology and project management technology training; training for cloud engineers, data scientists that support the use of AI, and engineers that perform agile development; international exchange; and language training. This training provides participants with skills. But these skills are already rooted in the prior knowledge and experience of these engineers. Thus, the Solutions Center needed to search for new training optimized for the age of DX to further refine the capabilities needed for innovators.

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Developing human resource training appropriate for the age of DX

From 2017, the Solutions Center began carrying out new training aimed at the development of co-creational SI engineers. When planning the curriculum of this training, we focused on disruptive innovation in various industries in order to identify what kind of talent would be necessary in the age of DX. For example, mobile phones and smartphones were equipped with cameras, whose image quality is continuingly improving, and functions and capabilities such as email and internet connectivity is improving in short cycles, multiple times per year, creating new markets. This had a tremendous impact on the existing market for digital cameras, which made product improvements roughly once per year. This case showed the limits of a mature market. It reaffirmed the fact that merely pursuing technologies and quality would result in a company being left behind by disruptive innovators that were at the forefront of meeting market needs.

We also looked at business models of companies around the world with high revenue earning power. There are apparently many young people that have never purchased a record or a CD. Music is no longer a product, but has transformed into a service in which it is streamed to and enjoyed on mobile devices. Many modern high-revenue business models are built on the value provided to customers by the use of products (usage value). System integrators and engineers also need to have the ambition and skills to create value for customers, without being caught by the existing business form or the system framework.

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Overview of co-creational SI engineer training and evaluation of previous training

Kiyoshi Takemoto

As a result of analysis of innovations and business models around the world, the objective of this training was defined as "developing business producers that lead innovation." The training creates leaders that possess both digital technology skills and business skills, have a strong entrepreneurial mindset and use it to think outside the box, and use their strong resolve to achieve their goals.

Traditional learning styles, which are focused on transferring knowledge, are not enough for developing these new talent. This is why we adopted active learning methodology. Through workshops and team discussions, participants actively identify issues and work with others to solve them. They produce awareness and come up with new ideas through their experiences, producing tremendous learning by all members.

We invited corporate management consultants, new business development advisors, and outside experts act as executive coaches to serve as instructors. Over a six-month training period, trainees work on a single project – the creation of a new business plan. This training focuses on participants' ideas and their learning results, not on competition with other participants. Participants step away from society and customers, engaging in dialog with their own inner voices, based on their own recognition of the challenges they face. For each of their ideas, they think about the approaches they can use to draw in customers, the flow of revenue, resources that provide value. The training focuses on a joy that participants feel in breaking through preconceptions, and on discovery of one’s own potential. Business ideas that are being considered are refined through discussion with outside investors and entrepreneurs, and with students aiming to start their own businesses. Participants develop a mindset of leveraging the wisdom of those around them, creating the best results possible. The program also contains a rich and unique curriculum that helps participants deeply explore their themes and gain greater mutual understanding through means such as expressing their own ideas graphically and learning design thinking (Fig.2).

Fig. 2 Co-creation SI engineer training

At training sites where this program has been launched, participants are always vigorously exchanging opinions through various discussions and exploring approaches to solving problems. There is a special look in their eyes – not the usual look of earnestly tackling day-to-day operations, but a unique, bright sparkle. From the participants who took this training, we received voices such as "I learned methods for more deeply identifying problems and issues" and "I gained an understanding of thinking processes for forming ideas,” and we received the impression that they are other engineers after the training. They have a mindset necessary to create innovation, such as a positive approach to work and a resolution to actively engage with those around them. The training plants the seeds of innovation in engineers, and we are confident that it will enable them to break through the confines of existing frameworks and produce innovation that creates new markets.

In the future, we will expand our training spaces, formulate programs that support business creation, expand the training scope to include sales and other talent, in addition to engineers, and promote other measures to further enhance the results of our digital talent development.

The computer industry is facing dramatic changes. In this industry, the business producers we are developing will acquire advanced digital technologies, provide stable, secure, high-quality systems such as those in the social infrastructure business segment, and create new value together with customers. Toshiba Digital Solutions will use coordinated bimodal IT, in which both modes of IT harmoniously coexist, to implement valuable DX for customers.

* The corporate names, organization names, job titles and other names and titles appearing in this article are those as of April 2019.

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From system developer to value creator The Solutions Center, Striving for Value Co-Creation