Culture of Innovation

EMC is dependent on innovation – from how we run our operations to how we develop and deliver new products and services. We rely on innovation to survive and thrive. But we recognize that true innovation requires discipline, and we have built programs that remind us to constantly challenge the norm in order to keep us from becoming complacent. 

We believe that the intersection of innovation and sustainability is where we can uncover solutions to our greatest business, social and environmental challenges. Innovation and forward thinking at EMC means questioning the existing industry “status quo”, observing internal operations and customers’ behavior, networking through existing channels, and experimenting with products and services to develop solutions.

The EMC Innovation Network, our innovation engine, is led by the Office of CTO. Its mission is to spark the creation and delivery of high-value ideas that accelerate change and drive progress. The team reaches out to more than 16,000 people across EMC who actively engage in Innovation Network events, programs and processes, and who work together to advance the organic growth at EMC.  Innovative ideas improve the operational efficiency of the company, result in new products and solutions that exceed customer expectations, and are the bases of new partnerships to address emerging trends and challenges. Through these programs, the Innovation Network identifies opportunities to shape the future of EMC and to make a positive impact on the environment and society.

Innovation Conference & Innovation Roadmap
The Innovation Conference is EMC’s annual celebration of innovation. Because we believe that co-creation drives innovation, the participants are not only EMC employees, but also partners, customers, universities, industry associations and other external stakeholders. In 2015, the Innovation Conference was digitally recorded and broadcast to more than 4,000 people participating in conferences hosted at 13 EMC global Centers of Excellence (COEs). To learn more, visit the Community of Innovation Site.

The cornerstone of the Innovation Conference is the Innovation Roadmap, EMC’s innovation competition and incubation engine, where innovative ideas are collected, strengthened, recognized, incubated and implemented.  Executives from various business units (BUs) and COEs post “challenges” representative of EMC’s most pressing business problems, which are open to innovative solutions from any employee or team of employees in the company.

In 2015, the Innovation Network received 3,343 submissions in response to 24 challenges, a decrease from the more than 5,200 ideas submitted in 2014.  This reflects a widespread focus by program sponsors and innovation leads across the globe to encourage a greater focus on quality, rather than quantity, of ideas submitted.  The consistently high number of submissions demonstrates the widespread innovative climate and creative thinking throughout the company. 

Caption: EMC Global Innovation Network | Innovation Roadmap 2008-2015 Snapshot

After a comprehensive judging process, three “best in show” ideas were selected from among the 24 challenge winners. The creators of these three ideas competed for funding in a venture-pitch format show called Ignition Sequence. The show featured a high-stakes elimination round judged by a panel of EMC and tech startup finance executives including EMC’s CTO John Roese, then CFO Zane Rowe, then EVP of HR ML Krakauer, and the Founder and President of MassChallenge, Akhil Nigam.

Innovation & Incubation Process
Gathering innovative ideas and aligning them with EMC’s vision is only the beginning of the Innovation Roadmap. To ensure that the ideas can be realized, innovators are encouraged to follow the EMC Incubation Process.

The Incubation Process starts with the development of the business case and proof-of-concept. These documents describe the business value and development path from the idea conception to the first viable prototype. Throughout this process, innovators receive domain expertise, financial support and resources for testing (see also table below).

EMC Innovation Portfolio Achievements and Challenges

Innovation Roadmap – Changes for 2016
Innovation is not static; rather, it is a dynamic and ever-changing process. The Innovation Roadmap, as part of EMC’s organic innovation efforts, reflects this concept. Beginning in 2016, the Innovation Roadmap will be shifting to a self-service system. This means that organizations across EMC will be able to post challenges at any time during the year. Employees across the globe will be able to propose solutions to solve our most pressing needs at any time using our in-house, web-based innovation management platform: Innovation Central. The platform was updated in 2015 to provide support for individual challenges as they are posted. We believe that the Innovation Roadmap is an excellent vehicle for strategic, challenge-based innovation, and will continue to leverage it for that purpose.

EMC Enhancements

Different types of innovation require different incubation paths and different programs to support them. In 2015, the Office of CTO, the Innovation Network and EMC HR designed a new program: EMC Enhancements. This program gives every employee the power to innovate, leveraging the crowd to advance their ideas. It will house and scale the incubation of incremental innovations; while the Innovation Roadmap, based on strategic challenges, will continue to focus more on adjacent and disruptive innovations.

EMC Enhancements consists of a 6-step process from idea submission to implementation that depends upon the active participation of innovators and their managers, to submit, review, advance, incubate, and implement ideas worth pursuing. We have developed a new web-based platform, EMC Enhancements Central, which will facilitate the submission, review and incubation of ideas for this program. We are confident that EMC Enhancements will be a great addition to EMC’s Innovation Program Portfolio. 

Incubation Fund
Winning ideas from the Innovation Roadmap have access to the Incubation Fund. The Incubation Fund is a cross departmental pool of resources funded through “donations” of BUs and COEs to support the further development of winning ideas. This fund demonstrates our collective cross-regional and cross-functional approach to innovation, highlighting the benefits that innovation provides to the global company regardless of the origins of the winning ideas.

Intern Innovation Initiative
In 2015, we continued the Innovation Intern Initiative, inviting students from universities and schools around the globe who were currently interning with other EMC teams to work with EMC engineers and managers on innovative ideas and projects. More than 100 interns volunteered and were organized into groups to help advance the incubation of 11 winning Innovation Roadmap ideas. Interns performed market research and put together strategic action plans, which they later presented to the Innovation Network team. Through the Intern Innovation Initiative, students get exposed to the technical edge of the company and have the opportunity to work with global customers.

Sponsored Challenges for EMC’s 2015 Innovation Roadmap

  • Asia – Pacific – Japan (APJ)  COE
  • Brazil R&D Center
  • Community Involvement
  • DPAD
  • Durham COE
  • End-to-End Business Process
  • Egypt COE
  • EOS2
  • Enterprise Content Division
  • Office of Sustainability - Environmental Stewardship
  • Global Platform Engineering
  • Global Product Operations
  • Global Solutions
  • Human Resources
  • Ireland COE
  • Israel COE
  • IT
  • Office of CTO (OCTO)
  • RSA
  • Russia COE
  • Skolkovo R&D Center
  • Total Customer Experience
  • Utah COE
  • XtremIO

Fellow & Distinguished Engineer Program
Our Corporate EMC Fellow & Distinguished Engineer (FDE) Program has been recognizing and honoring the accomplishments of outstanding leaders in our technical community since 2007. Currently there are five Fellows and 74 Distinguished Engineers in the program, recognized for their contributions in four key areas:

  • Technologist
  • Domain Expert
  • Business Impact
  • Technical Leadership

Achieving this pre-eminent technical distinction requires passing a rigorous nomination and review process. Nomination alone is an achievement and showcases an individual’s contributions to the company. The designation of Distinguished Engineer or Fellow is awarded on the basis of demonstrated individual achievement and leadership. Distinguished Engineers are recognized for their contributions to EMC; Fellows are recognized not only for their contributions to EMC, but for having significant impact on our industry.

After the Innovation Roadmap and Conference, the FDEs provide support in teams and as individuals to assist innovators in idea development and incubation. They engage across the external R&D ecosystem, working with our academic partners on new technology directions. FDEs also serve as mentors for our employees and contribute to EMC’s overall strategy development.

In 2015, the following 11 individuals were named as EMC Distinguished Engineers:

  • Daniel Butzer, Vice President Software Engineering
  • Dave Dimond, Director Solutions Architecture
  • Paul DiVittorio, Senior Director IT Infrastructure
  • Ted Streete, Director Technology
  • Kirill Shoikhet, Senior Manager Software Engineer
  • Aleisa A. Tringale, Director Software Engineer
  • Mark J. Halstead, Director Software Engineer
  • John R. Lynch, Senior Consultant Software Engineer
  • Joe Golio, Consultant Software Engineer
  • Shashwat Srivastav, Vice President Engineering
  • Ming Zhang, Senior Consultant Software Engineer

Innovation @EMC Portal
In 2015, we launched our public facing Innovation @EMC portal to highlight our advanced development and external research projects and industry points of view.

The purpose of the site is to further the development of emerging technology and solutions and to collaborate in a more agile fashion with our customers, partners, employees and the industry overall. In 2015, we shared EMC’s point of view on the future of data storage, modern application development challenges, and cloud automation, as well as our vision for the development of Internet of Things. We highlighted external research projects focused on assigning financial value to data sets and leveraging new persistent memory as a storage caching tier. We believe it is our responsibility not only to share our innovation projects and points of view, but also to inspire the industry to push the boundaries of what is possible.  The Innovation @EMC portal is publicly accessible at: http://www.emc.com/corporate/innovation.

Open Innovation Lab (OIL)
The EMC Open Innovation Lab, also known as “OIL”, helps us to collaborate with customers and partners on innovative solutions that solve their most pressing pain points. In many instances, OIL tackles needs that are not fully understood initially with technology that is just emerging. OIL complements other EMC innovation programs and is a form of open innovation - in this case via direct involvement with customers and a willingness to share and reconstruct EMC products with open source technologies.

OIL is best described by its use case. A key place to find innovation opportunities is with customers, as they are the most intimately aware of real-world technology problems and opportunities. OIL is not a physical lab but a team of people who engage customers who need solutions where existing products are not an immediate fit and where the customer may not even have a clear view of what the best solution might be. The customer may already be experimenting with commercial products and open source while trying to define the problem as well as identify the solution. OIL projects therefore are about the art of the possible and tackling leading edge opportunities. OIL partners with a customer, shapes a definition of the problem, proposes a Proof-of-Concept (POC), and then implements it for - and often with - the customer. Where an OIL POC is successful, productization may be done via an EMC product team, the open source community, or the customers themselves. To be considered, an OIL project must have a likely commercial outcome.

OIL projects start with completion of a one-page project proposal template for capturing the problem statement, hypothesis, goals/milestones, dependencies/inter-dependencies, entry/exit criteria, and requirements for success. Lead generation of potential ideas can come from a number of sources, including a customer, BU, region, partner, etc. Equally important is identifying the organization or team that will be responsible for commercialization of the project once completed and that will stay actively engaged during the life cycle of the POC.

Projects in the pipeline are reviewed regularly. Those that are approved move into the rapid prototyping phase, with sprints of typically six to eight weeks in duration. Project prioritization can be based on a number of factors – alignment to strategy/vision, business opportunity, competitive landscape, tactical/strategic or leadership play.

Four critical factors contribute largely to the success of OIL over the course of its development: direct customer engagement at the technology level, open collaboration with the customer, rapid prototyping, and effective commercialization. OIL success is defined by positive business outcomes for EMC such as this ECS/SIO win at Verizon, which was directly enabled by OIL.

OIL is an evolving program. We will continue to adapt it to market needs, evolving the way EMC interacts/innovates with our customers and partners.