The term ‘IT innovation’ is thrown around a lot these days, especially when it comes to talking about information technology. What many seasoned IT and business leaders have come to realize is that there’s a huge gulf between simply saying the word and making it a reality.
Many businesses, rightly so, have attempted to reshape their culture to be innovation-focused. They want their staff to be thinking about ways that technology can help them to unlock new opportunities, better serve customers, and grow revenue. We have seen wildly varying levels of success.
You Can’t Just Sprinkle IT Innovation Dust
The reason most companies want to build a culture of IT innovation is that the business and technology worlds move so fast that a one-off innovation will be yesterday’s news pretty fast. The idea is that continual technology innovation is needed for companies to maintain their competitive edge.
Though IT impacts virtually all aspects of our lives, one of the trickiest things about creating a business culture of innovation in IT is that not many people seem to agree on what innovation actually is.
Defining the term is difficult; there are some people who believe that innovation requires a rigid structure to foster tight-knit collaboration, others who think it is about individual moments of genius, and those who think there is a balance to be found between the two.
This debate over what tech innovation is often translates to messy, disparate strategies that get bogged down in bureaucracy and cause progress to grind to a crawl. When this happens, companies put themselves at risk of becoming irrelevant in their market as peers move on to better things.
So, it’s clear that innovation is a real thing that has major implications for most businesses, but making innovation happen requires a unified and thoughtful approach. To create that approach, you first need to understand and articulate what innovation really means for your business.
IT Innovation: A Definition That Fits Your Business
The meaning of IT innovation will vary based on many factors affecting your company and technology decisions, including:
- The products and services you offer
- Your business strategy and objectives
- Your day-to-day operational demands
- Your technology budget
- Your competitive landscape
- Your geographical locations
- Your consumer behavior
- Emerging technologies your business could use
Once you have developed an understanding of these factors, you can begin to shape innovation in a way that will bring genuine results. IT leaders, naturally, will need to position themselves as change agents who direct innovation efforts and keep it front of mind across the business. They need to understand how new technologies can be applied to business challenges and opportunities.
This leadership must then trickle down into the broader teams, especially those that tend to include staff with technical and creative minds. Fostering collaboration between these staff, while allowing them time to think deeply about ways they can improve the business, is critical.
It will also help to empower teams with a shared vision and mission to work towards, as well as providing staff with ongoing support and mentorship to help them stay engaged, focused and curious. If you start doing these things effectively, your unique path to innovation will become much clearer.
The Core Principles of IT Innovation
There are several key principles that can guide companies in defining and executing an effective IT innovation strategy. Let’s take a look at what they are:
Drive Long-Term Innovation in IT by Tracking ROI
Being innovative in a way that actually has a tangible impact on the business requires having a problem to solve or an opportunity to go after. This could be reducing customer wait times, improving the customer experience, or reducing costs by adopting cloud technologies.
By communicating these goals across the organization, you are giving teams something to aim towards, so they will be much more likely to find solutions for those specific issues. Innovation is not necessarily about the latest computer science, but more often about practical fixes and better processes.
Focus on Collaboration to Promote Innovation in IT
While trying to create an ‘innovative culture’ is an ambiguous task, focusing on collaboration instead will naturally bring about a stronger tendency for innovation.
This can be simple as scheduling weekly brainstorming sessions or as complicated as creating an innovation lab or centre of excellence that provides staff with dedicated time and resources to focus on collaborative improvement. Collaboration makes innovation part of the every day.
Build Trust Between IT and Business Teams
IT teams can carry an unwanted reputation for being disconnected from the wider business mission, and this is not a good environment for technical innovation. By getting IT and business teams aligned and jointly focused on company goals, the road to innovation will become smoother.
IT leaders need to take responsibility for sharing innovative ideas with business leaders and explaining how those will enhance operations. Business leaders, on the other hand, need to ensure they are communicating what they need from IT and partnering to bring those solutions to life.
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Tactfully Overcome Resistance to Change
One of the biggest roadblocks to innovation, especially in companies that have coasted by with the same processes and technologies for a long time, is overcoming the objections to anything new.
Staff, particularly those who have been around a while, don’t want things to change. It means they have to learn new things to do their job and can make them feel like they have lost control. It might also have them worried about if they are still needed.
This is where change management comes in. An important aspect of innovation in IT, change management is about communicating improvements, training staff of new processes and systems, and ensuring business operations continue in the smoothest way possible while changes are rolled out. There are always challenges when it comes to change, but they can be minimized.
You Have Technology Innovation Definition, Now it’s Time to Take the Next Steps
To sum up, innovation means different things to different businesses, but there are always common threads that a company can follow to give themselves the best chance of being innovative. Here are some quick tips to help you explore further as you get started on your innovation journey:
- Launch an enablement center focused on bringing together business and IT thought leaders and an IT innovation lab that will get your employees in the innovative frame of mind.
- Collect and analyze data so you can begin measuring performance and understanding where the best opportunities for innovation in IT lie.
- Create a bedrock of compliance and security so that your company can work on innovation with peace of mind that it will not disrupt operations or overstep regulations.
- Remember that any IT project is also a business project, always keeping an eye on tangible outcomes related to growth, expansion, efficiency and performance.
This blog is the first in a series of trends and IT innovations blogs from Netsurit. The next five blogs in the series will introduce the top IT trends for 2022 and focus on innovative technologies that are changing the face of business IT. Stay tuned to learn more about what IT innovation is and how ‘ordinary’ companies can innovate.