Dr.James Fairweather, Chief Innovation Officer, Pitney Bowes in an exclusive interview shares how the culture of innovation has propelled the organisation to adopt to latest technologies like AI and Data Science to address current business demands and challenges
Can you highlight the role of India on digital technologies and innovation for Pitney Bowes key products for global markets?
As a product and solution-oriented technology and lab center, our India development teams are playing a critical role in the development of technology and solutions. And are at the cutting edge as it relates to applying technology to create solutions for the global market.
One great example that speaks directly to this question is the development of a software defined secure evidencing platform, that has already been used to power solutions in two global markets, with two additional solutions planned for this year. The solution is built using cloud technologies, including their Quantum Ledger Database (QLDB) and cloud-based hardware security modules. The team not only engineered the product solution but developed some very innovative and challenging architectures for disaster recovery and high availability using these complex technologies. Pitney Bowes has very sophisticated and long-standing competencies in security, encryption and micropayment evidencing – and it is amazing to see us now make these capabilities available as software defined and configurable SaaS services.
What is your role in driving a culture of innovation at Pitney Bowes?
When I first took my role as Chief Innovation Officer at Pitney Bowes, our CEO Marc Lautenbach made it very clear to me that my number one responsibility was to ensure the vitality of Innovation at Pitney Bowes. I translate this strategic goal almost directly into tactics centered around building and maintaining a vibrant Innovation culture. One of the things we try to do is ensure our definitions of Innovation are quite broad – so they encompass everyone at Pitney Bowes, and not just members of my team.
We talk about Innovation falling in many categories – Technology Innovation, which you might associate with a technology and product development team; Process Innovation, which can occur anywhere in the organization and can result in substantial improvement of client experience, cost efficiency, speed improvement – and sometimes all three at the same time; and finally Business Model Innovation, which involves changing the way in which you commercialize services, the value you create, the ecosystem you create and the economics that ecosystem generates… it is an incredibly exciting category of Innovation.
Every year, Pitney Bowes hosts an awards ceremony, called ‘Innovation of the Year’, which we have made contemporaneous with the founding date of the company, where we celebrate the best innovations across several categories. We strongly encourage submissions and participation from across the company. This year, we have almost 60 nominations to consider which is one of the highest since the program’s inception. Similarly, we see diversity of thought as a critical component of Innovation, and so we are making purposeful efforts to ensure that our teams are diverse and that we live to the aspiration of Walter Wheeler, a former CEO of Pitney Bowes, who aspired to have the employee population of Pitney Bowes represent the diversity of the community in which it operates.
What are the emerging technology trends of 2023 that are reshaping the future of business?
Well, the market is abuzz with discussions around ChatGPT – and while everyone is talking about the power of this platform – I truly think we are at the absolute infancy of what can be done via the combinations of generative AI, process automation. We have already been able to do some early prototypes with this technology and the results are incredibly promising.We are also at a point where cloud is becoming more like utility grid computing, and the necessity for workload optimization to manage expense and extract value from the cloud (beyond development agility). The opportunity to serve clients better, meet data residency requirements, drive SLA performance, all while aligning your expense in direct response to demand is an opportunity many organizations have only begun to explore.
According to you, in the era of 5G, what are the potential cybersecurity issues that may arise?
Increasing counts of networked devices, regardless of the connectivity, presents challenges around the proliferation of endpoints, operating systems, and thus cybersecurity vulnerabilities across that stack that can impact an organization. We, along with many organizations, are implementing zero trust and least privileged access, segmentation, data loss prevention, and continuous review of critical assets via a multitude of scanning tools and risk assessments. Continuous scrutiny of your environment, continuous adoption of new tools and best practices, and automation of your security practices are ways organizations can stay on top of the very latest threats.
What will the future of work at Pitney Bowes be like given how quickly workplaces are changing?
We are all learning to optimally use different ways of working to maintain high levels of productivity in our organizations and continue to build high performing cultures. On-site collaboration and teaming can help reinforce cultural connections and build networks between employees. Client visits and direct discussions with clients in their environments can help promote client empathy and understanding. Working from home or working remotely for periods can allow deeper thinking, concentration, and uninterrupted periods where hard problems can be solved through focused effort. The very best organizations are learning how to empower their employees to utilize all these ways of working to perform optimally and with the highest productivity.
Pitney Bowes is no different – we find places where group meetings and summits are critical for new idea generation and brainstorming, and we find the flexibility of hybrid and work from home can allow us to attract talent to the organization and retain critical talent. New roles may emerge in organizations – based on how and where people work. We believe we can take advantage of these different ways of working. We can be better at employing them than many other organizations, which will give us a competitive advantage.