5 Tips for Using IT to Support Business-Led Innovation
IT departments are responsible for the development, implementation and support of platforms on which innovation practices and projects are built.
As often as not, companies tussle with innovation. Thinking of a rational new idea that has a shot at attaining wide-spread customer acceptance is difficult. It helps if a company’s culture supports an open, agile, and irrepressible frame of mind and is accepting of failure, as long as it’s accompanied by the absorption and application of lessons learned. Otherwise, a company’s operations and financial returns may fall victim to leaders who are all-too-willing to rest on their laurels, fine-tuning the already fine-tuned.
Companies noted for innovative products or services rely on cultural norms and processes that promote the formation of revolutionary ideas and their prompt realization. Also, these companies monitor their internal and external environments and analyze successful and failed initiatives to identify clues as to how to identify and develop opportunities for innovation. For companies most successful in this regard, their IT departments conduct a number of activities that support the definition, evaluation, development and production of innovative processes, products, and services.
- Provide technologies that promote innovation processes.
Companies most successful in developing and marketing innovative products often use customer data or directly involve customers in product and service improvement efforts. For instance, some companies collect and analyze customer feedback to guide innovation efforts. Other companies use customer data in the form of direct interviews to design and test products. Still others rely on customer feedback collected by way of social networking platforms to guide their customer-focused innovation efforts.
- Empower the rapid implementation of novel business ideas within existing processes.
Often, the businesses that lead the way in developing and marketing innovative products make use of disruptive technology trends to do so. For instance, big data and social media offer significant support to innovation efforts, whether in the development of new pricing models, the creation of new ways to package products for sale, or create a product offering based on prior orders to improve the customer’s experience.
- Coach senior executives on current technology developments and trends.
Fresh thinking that leads to innovative ideas within a company and across business divisions is, in part, a cultural phenomenon. But innovating the development, manufacture, market introduction and sale of products in ways that result in substantial business growth is often dependent on the C-suite partnering with IT to maximize the benefits of technology developments and trends. In this case, senior management works with IT to decide how to approach innovation, what departments own the data that will be its driving force, and what resources are needed to support it.
- Pinpoint seats of innovation within the company.
Common sense suggests that getting everyone involved in a company’s efforts to cultivate business innovation is not possible. But companies can achieve cross-departmental support for innovation processes even though it’s typical for companies to assign such responsibilities to a handful of departments, such as research and development. Other departments, including IT, marketing, sales, or customer service, can contribute innovative ideas, as well. For instance, IT and customer service departments can work together to create online customer service centers that supplant the more traditional call centers.
- Implement new business ideas within existing business processes.
IT departments excel at constructing and implementing tools to automate processes, enable others to do more with less data and systems, and build custom applications to improve employee productivity. For example, corporate adoption of social media platforms has led to new ways to market and sell products and perform other standard business functions, introduce new product lines, as well as establish entirely new businesses.
Achieving fresh thinking that provides value in the form of a product or service that people are willing to pay for is no simple task. This is true in part because some companies fail to recognize how technological trends enable practically any business unit to adapt processes to best support innovative practices and projects. IT departments are responsible for the development, implementation and support of platforms on which innovation practices and projects are built. For instance, IT may support the implementation of a new business idea by building custom applications for social media platforms that allow customers to answer their own questions or that collect customer suggestions to forward to product development teams.