Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Explore a Unique Path to Innovate IT

Every forward-thinking IT organization should explore a unique path to innovate and digitize, proactively push ideas to achieve high performance business results.

Many companies are at the tipping point for the digital transformation journey, more and more businesses empower their IT to lead changes and catalyze business growth. Due to the overwhelming growth of information and disruptive nature of technologies, IT is at the crossroad, either ride the learning curve and explore a unique path to build differentiated competency, or just keep the lights on only, react to the business’s requests and become irrelevant. Some high-performing IT organizations have moved up its maturity to become the innovation hub and game changer in their companies, how can they make it?

Closer to the end customers: Digital is the age of the customer, being a customer-centric business is in every forward-thinking organization’s top executive agenda. IT has two sets of customers: The internal business customers as well as the end customers of the companies. To reinvent its image as the business catalyzer, IT needs to be closer to the end customers and do more with innovation. Innovation happens at the intersection of customers and technologies. Thus, customers become an important link in the innovation process. The end customer (including prospects) should be studied and observed, and delighting customers can become the stepping stone to improve IT maturity. Corporate IT plays a significant role in digitizing every touch point of customer experience and building key business capabilities. Remember innovation must prove its value in the market. Customers must be willing to pay for this, be it a product, process or service innovation. IT is at the unique position to oversee the underlying business functions and processes. Hence, it has better advantages to make deep observations and have an empathetic understanding of customers. This involves gaining a deep knowledge of the motivational construct of the customer, in order that IT can become "anticipatory" of what the customer will likely "want next," and apply a more inductive approach as to what the customer wants to accomplish “next.” It is important to think when talking about innovation, not purely about technological advancements or breakthrough innovations, but also about different propositions, approaches to a problem or new interpretations, with customers as the center of innovations.

Communication, collaboration, and co-creation: Traditional IT organizations are often perceived as a back office function to keep the lights on with a controller’s mentality; to innovate IT and accelerate changes, it is a fundamental initiative to improve the important IT-business relationship that is essential to the business’s long-term success. It means having IT and business collaborate as equal partners to harness communication, enforce collaboration, and co-create innovative solutions, so that, organizations, people,  strategies, etc, work in harmony, such that business initiatives, especially those focused on leveraging IT to increase revenues are successful. The crux of the question is what an IT leader must plan for, articulate and, of course, execute to match the demands of the business and customers; set and communicate the forward-looking vision, and leverage IT funding to innovating for the business's long-term prosperity and success.

 Integrate the art and science of digital innovation: Being able to become innovative or close is being able to think, and create new things based on the business or the customer’s needs, true knowledge is the optimal solution. Innovation is to have a new perspective on things. Innovation follows basic rules, which are adapted depending on the company's situation and ambition. Running digital IT today needs to explore the art of possible and the science of engineering discipline. The challenge is getting out from the daily burden, and spend more resources and time on innovation-related activities. Once IT is unburdened from the daily routine of flipping the lights and break/fix; it’s almost natural that the staff turn into the innovation co-creators. That requires creativity and some open and innovative leadership. Building an environment where the only thing you get fired for is not asking hard questions or explore the better way to do things. Often the most disruptive person is the one you want to harness and reward. Keep triggering creativity and let capabilities shine. Build up a positive emotional climate, foster cross-functional communication, and advocate changes relentlessly.

When everyone just follows the industry best practices to run IT for “keeping the lights on,” there is no way IT can stand out. Break the old rules when it is necessary, experiment and develop the next practices to innovate IT. Both fast-growing businesses and well-established organizations set top priorities to build new capabilities in which IT is a key enabler. Every forward-thinking IT organization should explore a unique path to innovate and digitize, proactively push ideas on how to leverage powerful digital technologies to drive revenue growth, increase business productivity, flexibility, and performance.


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