What’s cooking inside Dell’s labs?

IDG Media had an exclusive interaction with Hemal Shah, SVP, Dell Digital and Regional CIO, Asia-Pacific, to find out what’s currently cooking inside Dell’s R&D labs. 

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In an exclusive series titled ‘What’s cooking in the labs?’ IDG spoke to several leading enterprise technology vendors to get a byte on the innovative trends and initiatives in the works. Hemal Shah, SVP, Dell Digital and Regional CIO, Asia Pacific, shines the spotlight on Dell’s innovation plans and more. 

Edited excerpts

Please elaborate on what Dell’s R&D is currently working on. 

We are Dell Digital (IT) organization. We are going through our own digital transformation covering the people process and technology changes. Our biggest focus is to be innovative, agile, adaptive and customer-focused to propel business growth and transformation.

We are using the Pivotal Labs’ extreme programming (XP) methodology for the transformation. Inside the labs, we encourage our teams to experiment based on the problem statement.

... We look at R&D and innovation as the core part of the job rather a separate activity. We have adopted a collaborative approach – pair programming. Here, a pair of developers discuss and arrive at the best possible solution in a test-driven process.
Hemal Shah
SVP, Dell Digital and Regional CIO, Asia Pacific

We look at R&D and innovation as the core part of the job rather a separate activity. We have adopted a collaborative approach – pair programming. Here, a pair of developers discuss and arrive at the best possible solution in a test-driven process. Most importantly, the teams consider both technical as well as functional areas a goals, research on industry trends and communicate on a weekly basis. They apply research-based learnings to the task at hand. We are pushing the ‘T’ of technology back in IT. 

Could you share certain use cases that have already been implemented?

 We are transforming key deliveries using the new approach. Some of the ones completed are - 

1. Dell Assisted Voice Interface (DAVI): A new option allowing customers to use Alexa to peruse Dell products and deals online is a good example of what happens when team members in an agile Dell Lab setting feel free to pursue new ideas. This was implemented in a few weeks. 
2. Executive dashboard for the Sales team in mobile, with collaboration directly from the senior Leaders of the company. This involves agile/pair programming with direct feedback and quick delivery.

“To build a culture of innovation, continuous learning and self-driven teams, you need to build a strong foundation for the people to stay on board.”

3. Burn time notification in manufacturing plan in smartwatch.

4. Efficient search capabilities both internally as well as externally.
             
Are you focusing on a specific technology – if yes, why?

The best part about Pivotal Labs is we give opportunities to engineers to choose the technology which best fits the solution to achieve business outcomes.

The team is working with mobility, cloud-native/containers, artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning (ML), voice etc. As the team is embarking on the micro service architecture, it gives the flexibility to implement different technologies. 

How are you building skills internally to keep the hunger for innovation going?

To build a culture of innovation, continuous learning and self-driven teams, you need to build a strong foundation for the people to stay on board. Labs provides that foundation to team members by making them full stack developers. This is ensured through on the job experience in pair programming, R&D, technical and functional goal setting, tech talks and the ability to work on multiple languages as a result of the micro service architecture.

Additionally, Dell has invested in labs infrastructure, which enables people to collaborate more and share best practices and experience. We believe in focusing and blending new university hires or Gen Z with the current workforce for mutual learning and pushing innovation and thought processes. 
 
If you had unlimited resources – how would you like to implement tech in the enterprise?

Culture eats strategy. At Dell, we are ensuring labs provide the foundation of building the culture of innovation, continuous learning, and self-driven teams. 

If you train people how to fish they will do the transformation for the organization. Experiment and implementing technology focusing on a business outcome is a culture in Dell.