How MasterCard restructured for IT innovation

Mastercard IT Innovation

How do you push a large organization like MasterCard WorldWide to innovate rapidly and embrace potentially disruptive technologies?

Use enterprise social to drive innovation

Innovation doesn’t bear fruit unless you can create a culture of innovation throughout the organization.

A Web-based idea management program called Aspire has helped to achieve, where anyone can post ideas, comment on them and vote them up or down. It was incorporated single sign-on and a user friendly interface to make the site as easy to use as possible, and then presented specific challenges to the organization — and publicized them. Within three months 47% of employees had signed in and 11% had participated.

Use ad-hoc innovation teams

It was also established Innovation Express, an initiative that pulls together people in the organization from a range of disciplines, locks them in a hotel room for 48 hours, presents them with a challenge, and tells them not to come out until they have a prototype, a go-to-market plan and a video demonstration of their creation.

The approach is a deliberate attempt to break down barriers between people that often crop up in large organizations. There’s a frustration between business and technology people, where the people who understand the problem statement and market never engage directly with the engineers who write the solution because there are so many layers in between. Locking them all in a room together is a direct, if a bit extreme, way to address that.

Get to incubation quickly, fail fast

Promoters of projects that rise to the top of the list create an incubation proposal, a business plan with specific success metrics that goes before an innovation council of business leaders for possible funding.

Most large organizations take a more cumbersome approach. The get an interesting idea and spend a lot of money looking at the size of the market, potential business models and creating a business case. But at such an early stage you’re almost certain to get it wrong. So at MasterCard, the council follows a streamlined, 28-point decision making process.”You can score an idea within 15 minute to determine if it’s worth prototyping.

Approved projects are assigned an “incubation officer, or CEO, who leads the virtual startup within MasterCard. If a project is a phenomenal success it may move on the fast track toward roll-out; others may be spun off as separate businesses. But most projects come back for one or two additional rounds of funding after achieving the initial goals.

Failure is also an option, and the goal is to get to do so quickly and move on. “We want to fail fast, fail cheap, and learn from the failure. The learnings will be applicable to something else in the future,” Garry Lyons says.

From a standing start we’ve created some very interesting payment solutions. Garry Lyons is going to leave MasterCard Labs as a very credible, functional part of MasterCard that delivers on the goal of getting solutions to market faster and cheaper than ever before.

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About olivierlehe

Passion for Innovations

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