Monday, August 7, 2017

Three “DO NOT” in IT Innovation

Failure is part of innovation; however, it is always important to avoid unnecessary, frequent, or expensive failures.

In the rapidly evolving digital businesses and economic systems, the creation of new innovations is very complex but critical for firms' survival and thriving. Information is the lifeblood of the modern business and technology is the disruptive force behind the digital transformation. Contemporary IT organization should be run as the innovation engine of the company, it is the thorny journey because there are many roadblocks and hidden pitfalls on the way. Here are three “DO NOT” in IT innovation.

Do not manage innovation from IT lens only: Innovation is to transform novel ideas and achieve their business value.  IT innovation is business innovation, and IT transformation is a significant step in the business’s digital transformation. Therefore, IT leaders should look at innovation from the perspective of developing business-wide innovation capabilities, from the discovery of a problem or new idea, designing a prototype solution to the ultimate delivery of a commercially astute outcome. There are many areas within a company where the innovation process can be applied to create value, including both “hard” innovations such as products/services/processes/business model innovation and soft innovations such a communication/culture/management innovation. IT is in the unique position to oversee underlying structures and business functions, and it’s the glue to integrate all necessary components into differentiated business innovation capabilities. But overall speaking, innovation has a very low success rate. Aside from treating innovation initiatives like typical IT projects that are constrained by quick ROI, the emotional obstacles for innovation are significant in large, mainstream organizations. Hence, the best point of view is to see innovation as a system, capable of delivering organization-wide capability. Innovation is the sustainable and scalable way that can be learned and practiced. Because how an organization orchestrates to generate ideas, manages the activities, measures the results, etc, is determined by how that organization has decided to craft the innovation effort.

Do not ignore silo mentality: In today's volatile economy with exponential growth of information, nothing impedes innovation and progress more than protective silos which are simply a form of the bureaucratic structure designed to preserve the status quo. Silo mentality will cause IT management failing to engage users in IT innovation and digital transformation. Dated or silos of technical knowledge or lack of resilience or reuse in the design of things will add more burdens on keeping IT in the maintenance mode, without unleashing its innovation potential. So often the innovation management fails to meet the customer’s expectation. Fundamentally, engaging and empowering your end user is vital in innovation management. Particularly as business has become more tech-savvy, and as such, aware of their power to demand what they want, when and how they want it. To break down the silo mentality, top leaders who are someone above the silo are supposed to connect all the individual puzzle pieces together. Because people who can perceive the bigger picture, abstract the insight from the overloading information, and are not living the day-to-day activities, are needed to clear blind spots, integrate a multitude of viewpoints, and inspire the culture of innovation. Great organizations are supposed to maximize the individual and the group. To overcome innovation fatigue caused by decision silos, the best practice is to leverage social collaboration platforms and effective digital tools to harness cross-functional communication and harness customer-centric innovation.

Do NOT focus on IT innovation in a low-risk territory and incremental enhancements only: Digital innovation has a very broad spectrum for accelerating rapid change via all dimensions. Thus, it is important to manage a balanced digital innovation portfolio, solely focus on quantifiable benefits or short-term result which stifles innovation. Many disruptive opportunities are brought to life with new thinking on how to monetize them. To disrupt you must hear the whispers of customers, contexts, inner worlds, outside worlds. It's about what's going in consumer's mind, that's the key. The breakthrough innovation is to explore “blue ocean,” bring some new attributes to the market and bring the high-value return, but it takes the bigger risk to invest and manage it successfully. You can create a roadmap for disruptive innovation because they are macro trends and patterns that give clues and there are unmet needs. Surely there are many barriers on the way, such as lack of buy-in and executive sponsorship, the innovation is not goal-congruent with corporate goals; lack of expertise to deliver, lack of  resources, early termination/budget cutting for initiatives, redesign of goals, lower prioritization for such “bold” initiatives; or assumptions are made that by simply undertaking the innovation, without setting the effective processes and the latest technologies.

Failure is part of innovation; it is very much an intrinsic part of innovating. However, it is always important to avoid unnecessary, frequent, or expensive failures. Like many other things in businesses, it is a balancing act to have enough failure and an environment that encourages learning from failure quickly and cheaply. Ultimately it is critical that innovation results in financial successes, otherwise a business will not remain competitive.


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