Mike Irvine is the leader of Ricoh’s European Technology Centre. His team is responsible for bridging the gap between Customers business needs and the Ricoh engineering and development teams. He is also a member of Ricoh’s Global Technology Centre leadership where he is responsible for the development of Ricoh’s Global Solutions and Technology standards and capabilities.
Mike’s career has been focused on helping organisations in all major industry sectors to improve their Business’ processes and operations. Prior to joining Ricoh, he worked for a major UK shipbuilding and engineering company and, later with service providers and solutions integrators. Mike is a Chartered Engineer, Chartered IT Professional and Fellow of the British Computer Society.
I met with Mike at Barcelona 3rd Innovation Excellence summit, and was impressed by the presentation he delivered on customer driven innovation, and how Ricoh unfolds various ways to involve customers in its product roadmap. Mike kindly accepted to answer a few questions about it.
1) You’ve presented 4 ways Ricoh involves his customers in its innovation process, could you describe briefly each of them?
Technology Centre Workshops – These workshops are designed to provide assistance in the Technology Centre locations in Staines and Dusseldorf. They focus on the needs of the visiting customer, for example some workshops focus on a customer’s technology challenge, some help the customer develop their own solutions strategies, and others provide a preview of Ricoh’s development plans. All workshops are conducted under a mutual NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement).
Development and Engineering teams often support the preparation of these workshops by providing demonstration material and identifying areas where feedback is needed. Detailed reports are shared with the Development and Engineering teams from these workshops.
Around 40 workshops are conducted each year in EMEA.
eTAC (European Technology Advisory Conference) – eTAC is a cornerstone event in the Ricoh customer driven innovation cycle. We operate similar events for our development programme members. We will show and discuss developments and concepts which fit in our development portfolios in the Short (<2 years), Medium (2-5 years) and longer term (5 years plus). We will also provide an update on what was done with the customer feedback from the last eTAC.
Each year around 50 customers participate in eTAC. The conference is aimed at CIO and IT Director levels from our Global and National Major Customers.
Innovation Focus Groups – Small groups of customers with a common interest in a product, technology of business need are invited to join focus groups sessions throughout the year. At these sessions the Ricoh researchers and developers work with customers to conduct a deep dive discussion on the focus group topic.
Collaborative Innovation Programme – The collaborative innovation programme facilitates 1-2-1 collaboration between Ricoh and customers. These customers are specifically selected as they have advanced needs which are suitable for other customers.
This programme was developed in response to requests submitted by customers at an eTAC meeting 4 years ago. This is a 2 way engagement. Both the customer and Ricoh must see benefit from the investment that they will make to the programme.
Customers benefit by influencing developments to meet their needs and get access to the solution before other organisations. Ricoh benefits from increased customer feedback and accelerated development time scales.
2) It seems that the TAC event is the tipping point of the year. What do you expect from the coming conference in June?
Due to the sensitivity of the event I am not at liberty to share the content of the conference. This is primarily to protect Ricoh’s competitive edge.
I can confirm that we will share items that will be launched within 2 years and others which are simply concepts.
3) Collaborative innovation is another cornerstone. It seems that continuous collaboration has replaced the linear process. Could you explain this perpetual cycle?
This cyclical approach has been created with a desire to continually embrace improvements from both Ricoh and our customers. We are constantly investigating how we can add more functionality to meet evolving business needs or changing capabilities of technology. In practice when Ricoh and a customer are both reaping the benefits of collaboration both parties are keen to further the process.
4) Customer feedback and expectations fuel Ricoh’ innovation engine in a very impressive way. Has it always been so? Is it linked to progressive Rico’s business switch from products to services and solutions provider? Does it come from Japanese culture?
Focusing on customer needs has been part of Ricoh’s culture since it was formed in 1936.
The creation of Regional Technology Centres to establish the bridge between Ricoh developers and our customers’ businesses dates back to 2003.
This year will be Ricoh’s 10th Annual eTAC event.
As part of the move to services we have leveraged the product Voice of the Customer programmes to provide feedback to teams developing new service offerings.
5) And what about ‘non customers’ as the Blue Ocean book spots them: do you see them as future business opportunities?
Non-customers have been invited to attend eTAC and TC workshops in the past!