In many forums, both formal and informal, we routinely ask what topics are on customers’ minds. We’re mildly obsessed with the question, and we take the answers to heart. There’s a famous story (at least within Vertiv) about our own Peter Panfil (vice president of global power sales), and a customer, in the back seat of a car on its way to LaGuardia Airport, sketching out a plan for a capability they wished existed. That cocktail napkin sketch of a way to add UPS capacity through software became Vertiv’s SoftScale™ technology, and it’s used across the world today.
And while listening to customers is the first – and irreplaceable – step to meaningful innovation, what’s different now is that the whole innovation process has been elevated and formalized across the organization. Last September, when I became Chief Innovation Officer, I accepted responsibility for taking the innovative thinking (and doing) that was happening across Vertiv and helping it grow.
5G, IoT, Digitalization & Edge Proliferation
Data center innovation has never been more critical. We face an onslaught of digital disruption from all angles: 5G, edge proliferation, IoT, post-pandemic remote work models, the general digitalization of society, and the drive toward sustainability, to name just a few. These forces form a web of interdependencies and connections – one enabling the other – and, fittingly, our work in the innovation office is also about strengthening and expanding connections.
Externally, we’re strengthening our connections with dozens of universities and corporate partners, including consultants, labs, industry associations and vendors. We’re working with those contacts to identify emerging tech trends and anticipate how they will impact our customers, all while collaborating with vendors and sharing innovation roadmaps, CTO to CTO.
Internally, we’re doing things like deputizing Technology Scouts to watch the ever-changing technology landscape and identify relevant innovation that connects to our offerings. For instance, we obviously don’t lay concrete for data centers, but we have done work with a company that captures CO2 in concrete. Connecting those dots for customers to help them reduce their CO2 emissions and achieve their sustainability goals is a major benefit, and something we are in a unique position to do.
We’re also convening annual Innovation Summits to connect global thinkers and encourage, identify, and germinate ideas more formally than in the past. We have regular conversations with customers about issues on their minds, like extreme high-density cooling and hydrogen fuel cells. Staying plugged into their challenges and successes sharpens our vision.
Most importantly, we have the systems and resources in place to take technological advances from concept to reality in a big way.
Vertiv has committed to significantly increasing its investment in R&D and engineering talent by 2023. This is the engine that brings innovation to life, helping us roll out new products and services faster than ever and better meet customers’ needs. That means scalable/modular solutions, addressing growth at the core and the edge of the network, for 5G, and helping to meet sustainability goals.
We’ve always been able to take a seed of an idea, provide a little care and nourishment, and see if it sprouts. If it does, we invest more. Formalizing our innovation process has given us the tools to build a full-blown greenhouse to bring innovations to life. And those innovations are benefiting our customers, society, and the planet.