The innovation imperative

Today, all industries are at risk of disruption – even if they may not realise it. The rapid rate of change in the technology space has opened the way for even traditional industries to be disrupted by smaller, nimbler start-ups, putting pressure on larger organisations to look at ways they themselves can innovate in order to remain relevant. In fact, the most recent Harvey Nash CIO Survey revealed that:

“An overwhelming two thirds of CIOs believe digital ‘disruption’ is now a very significant change to business… Only one in ten CIOs believe their organisation will be unaffected by digital disruption in the coming years.”

However, while more than a third of CIOs say they are already responding to disruption (and a further three in 10 expect to be doing so within two years), it’s the CIOs at smaller organisations who expect a ‘much better’ response to digital disruption than those in the enterprise. This may be down to the latter’s reluctance – or inability – to think beyond business-as-usual, so here we’ll explore ways to strike a balance between these competing demands, and help ensure sustainable success as a result.

Focus your efforts

As mentioned above, large enterprise organisations are often reluctant to tamper with existing business models – not surprising perhaps, since their processes will have been optimised over time to maximise efficiency, productivity and value. However, while performance may be as good as it can be, the processes themselves may be part of an outdated business model, making the continued exploration of new ideas and approaches vital. Innovation can even be pursued alongside these processes, through the installation of a small team tasked solely with exploring new ideas and approaches.

Inspired by the ‘skunkworks’ model pioneered by Lockheed Martin, and in place at world-leading technology organisations including Google, Amazon and Apple, these teams work independently from your main business operations – safeguarding your reputation and enabling proven revenue-generating activities to continue unimpeded, while facilitating a test-and-learn approach that uncovers the innovations that will deliver the very best results for both your business and your users.

(And if you don’t think this approach will work in your organisation, check out our white paper on the subject. It’ll show you how to overcome some of the most commonly-cited hurdles to adopting a start-up mindset, which is vital to get the most from a skunkworks-style model.)

Get the right help

Of course, setting up even a small team focused on innovation still requires a significant investment of time, effort and budget. You’ll need a well-planned strategy driving all activities to ensure success, as well as the necessary skills and experience in place to effectively support your aims. To meet these requirements, many organisations choose to partner with an external technical supplier.

When taking this direction it’s important to make sure you employ a rigorous selection process – one that tests cultural fit as much as technical capability – and nurture the relationship through regular communication and collaboration. Done well, however, a long-term partnership will provide you with direct access to a team that’s likely already sourcing, testing and proving new approaches, and who can come into your organisation armed with a fresh perspective and new ideas.

You’ll also be better placed to effectively embed your supplier into your organisation, so that they can augment their specialist technical expertise with an in-depth knowledge of your business model, organisational hierarchy and industry. This can help make sure that innovations will be explored with reference to your specific needs and ecosystem – further helping minimise risk as well as reducing wasted effort.

(There are many other benefits of partnerships, of course. Another of our white papers covers some of the most important.)

Look outside your industry

As the impact of advancing digital technologies is felt at an increasingly fundamental level though, many organisations are looking beyond their own market and contexts, instead seeking to adopt best practices from digital leaders across all industries. This is something we’re certainly seeing among the progressive organisations we work with here at Box UK. They’re interested to know about the latest trends regardless of industry, and the opportunities available to tailor these to their own requirements and so introduce innovation from a completely different space.

If you’re working with a trusted technical partner, they will likely have a broad understanding of digital and technological innovations just waiting to be unlocked. Be sure to take advantage of this, then, through knowledge-sharing activities such as strategic planning sessions and regular reviews. You may even consider augmenting the supplier team with your own staff, to help uncover opportunities that may otherwise have gone unnoticed.

Implement with speed and skill

Whatever innovation initiatives you wish to pursue, don’t forget that it’s those organisations able to respond to opportunities as soon as they arise that will reap the rewards of first-mover status. Your development process should therefore provide you with optimal flexibility and efficiency – and Agile techniques can prove incredibly useful to achieving this.

Encouraging short, iterative periods of work, alongside regular communication and reviews, Agile enables you to adapt the direction of development should lucrative new opportunities arise, while ensuring that you remain responsive to current requirements and conditions. (And you’ve guessed it – we’ve covered Agile in a previous white paper too. Download your free copy today for more signs your web projects could benefit from the approach.)

Ready to innovate?

Every industry sees changes to their marketplace, and in every industry there are people looking for a disruptive new idea that will give them valuable competitive advantage. Organisations of all sizes and maturity must therefore consider their own innovation efforts, while bearing in mind how they may affect other elements of the business. Hopefully though this article has shown that there are a number of ways to increase your ability to innovate – it’s just that a considered approach is needed to make sure you go about it in the most productive way possible.

Learn more about the techniques discussed here by downloading our related white papers: “Start-Up Mentality for Large Enterprise Organisations”,“Build Trust & Drive Value: The Partnership Approach” and “Five Signs Your Web Project Needs Agile”