How Big Companies Can Keep Up with Startups: 3 Tips from AT&T Foundry

August 29, 2017
By Igal Elbaz

In today’s ever shifting tech landscape, how can big companies keep up with customer demand to provide the latest technologies first? Adopting a startup mentality is vital. Big companies must constantly transform to stay ahead of the curve – or they’ll get left in the dust.

At the AT&T Foundry, we embrace transformation. And it’s influenced AT&T’s overall culture and business processes. Few walls, no cubicles and open work spaces – trialed at the Foundry – are now common in many parts of our company. However, there’s more to transformation than cool work spaces. Our goal is impact for the business.

When we launched the AT&T Foundry in 2011, we didn’t know exactly what the company would look like today. We did know AT&T needed to get nimbler to innovate faster for our customers. And AT&T Foundry could be the catalyst for that cultural shift. We’re often asked how other companies can replicate the Foundry model. Here are 3 key things that can help any big company adopt that startup mentality successfully:

Collaboration

The Foundry is built on connecting people with technology. Those connections start with trust and open collaboration. Or as I call it, the “notion of co-creation”. When we opened the Foundry, we made a conscious choice to look for opportunities to work with others in and out of the business to drive innovation. There’ll always be a startup or technology model out there that can help us stay on the cutting-edge. And various viewpoints provide a better understanding of how we can better serve the customer’s needs. By embracing the startup ecosystem we can ideate quicker and create awesome services that can get into market faster than ever.

The connected wheelchair, wearable glasses and luggage tracker all exemplify successful collaboration.

Connecting old with new

In a digital-first world, innovating is only as effective as our existing business technology. For example, there was a need for AT&T employees to automate some of their manual tasks so they could focus on more complex challenges. So the AT&T Foundry led the initial design and development work on Robotic Process Automation (RPA). The software agents or “bots” help eliminate day-to-day tasks for employees by mimicking repeatable human actions. Think data entry into legacy systems or pulling sales leads from various systems.

Rethinking what’s possible

Thinking differently is perhaps the most important aspect of adopting a startup mentality. Without rethinking what lies ahead, any new technology will be used to do more of the same. That's the opposite of transformation. For example, with augmented reality (AR)/virtual reality (VR), we’re exploring unique ways to harness the power of edge computing to exceed what current standalone devices can deliver. Seeking ways to scale it to other use cases is core to sparking a new generation of exciting applications for customers.

Technology and business disruption is a way of life for most companies now. And disruption, much like a storm, requires preparedness. In a world where change is the only constant, adaptability is key to survive, evolve —and thrive.

Igal Elbaz - Vice President - Ecosystem and Innovation, AT&T Services, Inc.

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