Technology Blog

In May of 2009, The Innovation Pipeline (TIP) launched with a simple goal: collect innovative ideas of all kinds, from all corners of AT&T, and help the best ideas rise to the top.

Ten years later, the results are staggering. 130,000 members across 54 countries and all 50 states have submitted more than 50,000 ideas, and over 100 projects have transformed into real products and services our company and our customers use today. To our knowledge, it’s one of the largest and longest-running corporate crowdsourcing innovation programs of its kind.

You’ve probably used – or at least heard of – DriveMode, a mobile app that sends automated replies to people texting you while you’re on the road. It was a cornerstone of our It Can Wait campaign. The idea for that app originated from one of our AT&T call center employees who was personally affected by texting while driving. It’s just one of many innovations that have come through TIP that have cut costs, improved efficiencies, and enhanced the way we and our customers live, work and play.

TIP launched under John Donovan’s leadership when he headed the AT&T Technology Organization.

“I think it was successful in the beginning because people wanted to participate,” Donovan said. “But it sustained itself through the life of great ideas. Now it’s a community, and that community is where a lot of our innovation sits today.”

TIP was part of a broader transformation that AT&T embarked on a decade ago to democratize innovation, embrace open source, and accelerate the pace at which we brought impactful applications and services to market. AT&T Foundry also came out of this initiative. But TIP was unique in how it sparked a grassroots culture of creation. What started with a handful of people contributing has grown into a massive internal social network constantly coming up with ideas, providing feedback, and deciding whether those ideas should move on to receive funding.

Everyone is equal in the platform. It doesn’t matter if employees are leaders or frontline associates. It doesn’t matter if they’ve been at AT&T one day or 20 years. Everyone has an equal ability to share their thoughts and insights on where they think we should go as a company.

And that equal access mantra plays into one of the more unique aspects of TIP. The Angel Pitch meeting gives our employees whose ideas have been selected by the community – regardless of their level – the opportunity to pitch their ideas directly to executive leadership.

Additional projects that have come through our TIP program include:

Cajun Puller: Cajun Puller is a prime example of one of the many cost- and time-saving solutions that have come through TIP. The idea and initial prototype originated from one of our network service managers from Louisiana. He formulated a way to quickly reconnect customer fiber in just one technician visit because he was frustrated that customers had to wait for a second work group to arrive to resolve customer complaints. After submitting the solution to TIP, the Foundry developed a working prototype for our technicians. Not only is AT&T is now using 1,000 Cajun Pullers in the field, the innovative solution is estimated to save AT&T around $10 million a year.

NumberSync: This solution enabled customers to use their mobile numbers on any compatible device. While it’s a fairly standard feature today, the concept of being able to receive calls using your mobile number on any device was a revolutionary one just a few years back.

Check out the video above with a look at some innovations that came straight from our own employees. Congratulations to TIP on 10 years!