Innovation, Management, and the PTC/User conference 2009

The annual PTC/User conference always has a Management track. Typically, they send out a questionnaire to the attendees in advance of the show, to gather enough information to assure that the sessions are relevant and valuable.

This year, the questions were interesting enough that I wanted to share them — and our answers to them.  As it turns out, we had a good bit to say on the matter.

1.  Your name, your title, and a brief description of who you are

Liz Fraley, CEO and Founder, Single-Sourcing Solutions. We are a VAR for PTC.  Our area of expertise and specialization is in the Arbortext suite of products.

2. How significantly has the Global Economic Downturn impacted you and your work?
While we are still busy and our firm is growing, we have noticed that our customers have slowed down their spending. Approvals tend to take a little longer and more caution is practiced when committing budget dollars to projects. However, the work demand has not changed and, in fact, increased reductions in headcount have created a need to rely more on technology to meet the demands of their customers and their ability to expand their global market share. For us, this has proven to be a good thing as our approach has always been to rapidly deploy solutions and provide training and support for the tools in real time. Our approach has allowed our customers to be more productive in a much shorter time and realize the ROI faster.

3.  How has it impacted your budget and spending on R&D?

We have always been careful about our organic growth and have always had a more cautious approach as to where we spend our resources. That philosophy continues to serve us well in the current economic environment. As a result, we haven’t had the need to curtail our activity.

4.  How do you (and your company) encourage a culture of innovation and risk-taking?

This has always been the corner stone for building Single-Sourcing Solutions. We have a very open, candid communication practice internal in our organization, with our customers, and with the community at large. Our focus is on sharing knowledge and growing the skills of everyone and as such, we have managed to establish a very collaborative environment.

Everyone at Single-Sourcing Solutions is strongly encouraged to support the community we share with our customers:

  • by actively participating in user groups and forums,
  • by contributing code to Open Source projects related to our industry,
  • by presenting at conferences and industry association meetings

We continue to look for new ways to share information and support the user community.

5. What are the key issues that I should address in a presentation titled, “Energizing Product Development in a Challenging Business Climate”?

The hidden cost of tools deployment.  There is more to the cost of a project or process than the tools you use to implement it. Time attached to the people implementing those tools can be far more expensive. I can fix my sink, but it will take me a lot longer to do — and in the end cost far more because I’m not doing what I do best to bring in revenue — than if I hire a plumber to come in and fix it.

Although we learn a lot through do-it-yourself projects, the full cost of implementing the system by stringing together a lot of little tools can be much higher than the cost of purchase for a fully-functional system may be.

6.  What is the key challenge (or obstacle) you currently face as it relates to innovation in your area of the company? Specifics please.

Outside economic influencers. We have seen it time and time again that companies when faced with challenging economic forecasts become fixated on doing things the way they worked in the past. They often make a critical mistake by cutting off the resources to innovate during the time it is most important to advance innovation. Our number one question we ask of ourselves and each other is “How can we do things differently?” We also will ask each other for ideas “How do you think we could do X differently?”. It doesn’t matter if it is your niche area of expertise or not. Sometimes the best ideas come from someone who is completely removed as they can see the task from a completely different perspective. It forces you to think in terms of constant innovation. Without this, you stagnate.

7. How much Open Innovation are you and your company actually engaged in at this point?

At Single-Sourcing Solutions, we give away information like candy!  We believe that the more of us out there using the products — efficiently, effectively, and well — the more work and the more resources there are for all of us.  At the end of the day, we’re all doing the same thing even though there may be small variations to the specifics.

We feel it’s our responsibility to actively contribute to open innovation. This practice not only supports our customers and all the members in our community, we have found that it enriches our knowledge as well. Single-Sourcing Solutions is very proud of the reputation we have established and continues to grow: Open and candid communication with the desire to build a stronger community and more robust solutions to meet the changing market needs for information design and delivery.

Updated 6/23/09:

I can’t say that the management portion of the conference was valuable to me. It had potential, but the rest of the conference, as far as Arbortext topics go, has come up so high in quality, it was hard to choose the Management presentations over the Arbortext ones.  I skipped most of this track and likely won’t choose to do it next year.

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Author: Liz Fraley

Liz Fraley has founded two companies, sits on the boards of three non-profits, and is constantly coming up with new ways to share knowledge in the technical communications and content industries. https://www.linkedin.com/in/elizabethfraley/