Lately, I’ve been considering “what is IT innovation.” I believe the term innovation in general is overused. This thought process was triggered by an article in the Wall Street Journal I read late last year and finally got around to commenting about it.
Article is WSJ Dec 3, 2013 (available here) Is a Peanut Butter Pop-Tart an Innovation? When Companies Confuse a Product Upgrade With a True Breakthrough; Keeping Pace With Rivals
In the article it states that in 2007, 99 companies in the S&P 500 mentioned innovation in their third-quarter conference calls, according to reviews of transcripts from Capital IQ and this year (2013) the number was 197. Also in the same article they quoted Boston Consulting Group where 1,500 executives were asked to rank their company innovation from 1-10, more than two-thirds rated themselves a seven or higher. I have a hard time believing that… let’s stick to IT for now.
In an IT world, the struggle and stress is speed of delivery, value, budget, and meaningful business impact. The CIO is on the hook not only to keep the infrastructure and existing systems running but also innovate. It there isn’t a CTO maybe the CIO is also playing that role.
I believe IT needs to move towards more of a consultative role. I’m suggesting that innovation as the overused term should really be consultative problem solving with the customer. This consultative approach is about what is possible and leaving existing notions on how it should be done outside of the process and keeping an open mind. As a side note, there is a challenge in collecting unbiased suggestions that can provide some direction on where to look. There are several methodologies to doing this and employees are more than happy to give you ideas of where significant ROI can be had as long as the right approach it taken.
The idea collecting process should have a lens on which ideas should be considered for further investigation. The lens provides the criteria like hard/soft dollars, difficulty of implementation, technology needed, quickness of implementation etc. Once the idea passes through the lens then the next step is the consultative approach. Go and talk to the suggester…don’t challenge the idea but see what they are thinking and why. No wrong answers. This is where the innovation can happen but use problem solving and brainstorming to come up with ideas. Test ideas, work with the customer and look at if from different perspectives. The approach is not technology for technology’s sake, add the balance of emerging, contemporary, legacy technology, and business process.
I define emerging technology as technology that is in its early days not proven, ground level noise that is written about in the most technical of blogs or mentioned as emerging web trends and maybe not even ratified yet by a governing committee. But it should be considered as an approach and maybe the design to the solution might be exactly what is needed to give you the competitive edge. A possible approach to emerging technology is to pilot and test the solution with the customer as well as testing the performance and stability of how you want to use the tech. Maybe development will be quicker, maybe connectivity is better, maybe there is less support requirements etc…. take a risk. Pilot and take baby steps.
I define contemporary technology as what is proven, approved or nearly approved by a governing body, used in existing technology, and plenty of documentation and use cases or a web trend that is obvious. Of course, no reason not to consider contemporary technology in the solution. The other component in this obvious mix is legacy systems, how to connect, do you keep it, can you isolate it with something akin to middleware etc.
To drive IT innovation its all about looking at the problem from a different perspective and have a consultative/problem solving approach.
Contact us to talk about possible approaches, more than happy to brainstorm with you.