Building Next-Gen Technology: How SS&C Eze Fosters Innovation
As Rob Baxter, Global Head of Engineering for the Eze EMS product team, wrote in one of our earliest blog posts, an organization’s ability to innovate is critical to its success and longevity. According to Rob, unfortunately, many developers feel they can only innovate on their own time. And yet, it’s often those “after school” projects that excite and inspire them most.
This challenge isn’t unique to SS&C Eze. One of Google’s most famous management policies is “20% time,” in which employees can allocate 20% of their paid work time to pursue projects of personal interest. Even though innovations like Gmail and AdSense are said to have come out of 20% projects, many insiders claim that Google has since abandoned that policy, and others say it was never really adopted at all.
Whether or not Google truly implemented 20% time, the idea of setting aside time for innovation is a concept that has redefined the tech space over the last 20 years. However, doing so has presented a unique set of challenges. Balancing routine, day-to-day tasks with groundbreaking innovations and revolutionary transformations is a monumental task. One that involves keeping teams focused on executing roadmap items while also giving them the creative space and intellectual freedom they need to push the boundaries. Without the full backing of leadership, tremendous discipline, and the ability to compartmentalize effectively, employees often can’t set aside the time to ponder potential innovations.
So how do successful tech companies make time for innovation?
SS&C Eze’s Innovation Challenge: Creating A Time and Place for Innovation
At SS&C Eze, we recently completed our 6th annual Innovation Challenge. The challenge functions as a specific time and place for employees to pursue innovations that have sparked their curiosity. It’s 48 hours away from the day-to-day grind for employees to pursue “pet projects” they are passionate about, and, by the end of the two days, produce a real-world solution. This year’s Innovation Challenge involved 185 talented employees coming together to form almost 40 teams based on individuals’ interests.
These short bursts of innovation have led to many exciting advancements, from embedded trading insights, to chatbots, to tradebots, to voice-assisted automation. While the Innovation Challenge has been incredibly beneficial to our organization by inspiring exciting new solutions, it has also been invaluable in building camaraderie and keeping morale high.
Swinging for the Fences: Nurturing the Roots of Innovation
Although the Innovation Challenge has been a great success, two days is not nearly enough to instill a true spirit of innovation within an organization. To ensure the spirit of innovation thrives year-round, SS&C Eze introduced our Swing for the Fences initiative, a program in which any employee can pitch their big ideas and, once approved, “swing for the fences” to make their ideas a reality.
If the goal of the Innovation Challenge is to innovate over a short period in pursuit of a real-world solution, then the goal of our Swing for the Fences initiative is to nurture the roots of innovation within our culture over the long run. Often, fear of failure can overwhelm the innovation process. When we Swing for the Fences, taking risks is not only ok but encouraged. This initiative provides a safe place where employees can dream big, take risks, and learn by doing.
Beyond R&D: Innovation is Everywhere
At SS&C Eze, identifying problems and coming up with creative solutions is not a job solely reserved for our R&D teams. We know that innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum but instead thrives off diverse ideas and perspectives. Inspiration can come from anywhere, and anyone can be an innovator.
That’s why it’s important that each team member is aware of the challenges facing our company, clients, and industry and is ready to put their great minds to work to come up with solutions.
To facilitate conversations about these challenges with employees from across the organization, we hold brainstorming sessions in which all employees are encouraged to present an idea or solution they are passionate about.
These brainstorming sessions have led to dozens of intriguing ideas, including:
- Using machine learning to predict and correct issues with end-of-day processing operations.
- Investigating artificial intelligence’s ability to ensure accurate trade and position data.
- Exploring augmented reality’s application in visualizing complex investment data.
Every company wants to be known as an innovative trailblazer in its field. However, that vision all too often clashes with a reality in which the minutia of day-to-day tasks take precedence, and setting aside time to indulge in innovation is perpetually pushed to the bottom of the list.
At SS&C Eze, we understand how difficult it can be to consistently stay true to your innovative values, especially in the face of unprecedented times. Our solution has been to take an ‘innovate innovation’ approach. Over the years, we’ve constantly adapted to find new ways to inspire our teams. And whether it’s by setting aside time for innovation through our annual Innovation Challenge, combating fear of failure through our Swing for the Fences initiative, or initiating cross-functional dialogues on novel new ideas through our brainstorming sessions, we are always coming up with new ways to inspire innovation. With this approach, we’ve been able to make sure that every update, every product, every individual, and every team is as innovative as it can be.
Kevin Hedrick, managing director of software engineering at SS&C Eze, uses his 25 years of experience in his field to oversee software and quality assurance engineering for all of Eze's award-winning products, including Eze Investment Suite, Eze's best-in-class suite of applications which provide a complete, front-to-back investment experience for investment managers, and Eze Eclipse, Eze’s next-generation all-in-one cloud platform.