How to create a foundation for digital innovation: process & imagination

  • Posted on September 8, 2016

In this two part blog series, Julian Tomison, General Manager of Avanade UK discusses some of the key questions and challenges around encouraging digital Innovation: People, Policy, Process and Imagination.  

Recently, I discussed how People and Policy are critical for any business seeking to create a foundation for digital innovation. Now, let’s consider two more important areas: Process and Imagination.

Process: How Do I Enable Successful Internal and External Collaboration?

If there’s been one megatrend in technology - beyond the rise of software as a means of delivering value - it’s the realisation that innovation can no longer happen in a siloed environment. Collaboration is essential for success, and digital innovation cannot be laid at the feet of a single person or one isolated team Twitter [CLICK TO TWEET]. At Avanade, we’re also seeing more and more companies send their people out into the world to discover new ideas and opportunities - from other businesses and industries.

Companies also need an incubation process that enables staff to collaborate internally and externally on both Mode One and Mode Two projects - to use Gartner’s Bimodal IT terminology. You can think of as Mode One projects as Big Tankers – longer term, often cap ex intensive, yet with the potential for massive, transformational and financial impact.  Mode Two projects are speedboats, with lower financial barriers to entry, and more suited to rapid prototyping and early in-market trials. To be clear however - massive disruption can arise from projects of either type.  I discuss this in greater length in a separate blog post, which references this New Economics of IT.

Creating and embedding these processes is not easy. Nonetheless, modern enterprises have to find a way, and empower staff to try innovative projects with the understanding that only a few might succeed, particularly when measured against direct financial or ROI metrics. Learning must also be recognised as a key measure for success, with those lessons incorporated directly into the next project.

Imagination: How Can I Prepare for a Competitive Threat I Can’t See and Doesn’t Exist Yet?

Given how fast technology now moves and how rapidly new businesses can emerge – a genuine competitive threat can come out of nowhere.

So you have to imagine what you might suddenly find yourself up against, and ask yourself: If a business appeared tomorrow offering the same service as ours, but with zero technical debt and today’s near instant, infinite scalability, could we compete?

It’s like asking - if I was starting my business again today, or launching a new division from scratch, how would I go about it? In other words - thinking about innovation the same way start-ups do.

This matters because startups aren’t thinking about how to achieve a five per cent increase on a KPI that was set three years ago. They’re thinking about how to take advantage of the billions of dollars companies like Google, Microsoft and Amazon Web Services are investing in new technologies from data centres and cloud services to IoT.

This means proactively focusing on partnerships and ecosystems instead of trying to compete with everyone. Your vendor- supplier relationship should empower the client, as opposed to engendering dependency.

Doing so might require new behaviours, or even a new culture. Otherwise procurement policies designed for traditional IT projects could mean it still takes you 18 months to get approval for a new website – and even then, only on the basis that it delivers full ROI within two years.

Meanwhile your competition is spinning up something new over a single weekend and not paying a penny for it until it’s already making them money.

The good news is if you’re an established enterprise that can find the time to think differently and collaborate, your advantages will outweigh those of any startup in the world.

Did you miss the first of this blog series? Part 1: How to Create a Foundation for Digital Innovation: People & Policy


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