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A mature enterprise innovator

Network World has posted a great interview with Sean Belka, Senior Vice President and Director of the Fidelity Center for Applied Technology, AKA ‘Fidelity Labs’.

Fidelity has long been an innovator in technology, looking for a proprietary edge on everything from fund manager market information and analytics terminals to 401K delivery services. As such, the company has deep experience in investing for innovation, integrating IT operations with its lines of business, and finding those tasks that are still best centralized.

Among the organizational practices Belka described are the following:

  • While the LOB IT organizations are more focused on internal employee and customer needs, with a fairly immediate timeframe, the Labs pull in more external information, from market analysts to university research partnerships, to take a more experimental, futuristic, and big picture-oriented look at the possible uses and impact of new technology.
  • Although the Labs were looking at technologies such as mobile and social five years ago, they are currently more focused on wearables, artificial intelligence, and gamification.
  • With a staff of 75, the Labs have separate groups dedicated to new technologies, prototypes and development, and geographic innovation ecosystems, among other functions.
  • Fidelity has both enterprise IT and business unit IT, which the Labs will work with variously, depending on the scope of the project involved.

Only very large enterprises have the scale and resources to commit to IT that Fidelity enjoys.

But smaller businesses compete in the same market, and it is incumbent upon IT organizations from the merely large down to the midsized (and, critically, their partners and providers) to find ways for new platforms, technologies and packaged products to enable advanced and adaptable innovation–without incurring prohibitive managerial, tech skill, and resource costs.

There is also accumulated wisdom in how Fidelity organizes its IT to support both regular business operations and various stages of near-term and longer-term innovation and experimentation.