Igniting the Sparks: Technology Tools for Innovation
As previously published in CIO Journal from The Wall Street Journal:
The right technology tools can help craft a well-defined approach to innovation that delivers the expected value.
Effective innovation can create new market value, drive efficiencies, extend the lifecycle of products and services, and help launch new business models. Given the importance of emerging technologies in driving innovation, CIOs should be prepared to play a major role in shaping and executing the innovation agenda.
Innovation requires sparks of creativity as well as leaders who can recognize and nurture distinctive ideas and gain the organization’s commitment to pursue them. Technology tools can aid in the innovation journey. Once a definition and approach for innovation have been adopted, processes and supporting technology can help corral and amplify the ensuing initiatives.
Here’s a look at some of the ways technology can help to “grease the wheels” of innovation:
Vendor offerings. CIOs can use technology vendors as potential sources of innovations that improve existing business models (referred to as “sustaining” innovations). New releases from software vendors can improve the efficiency and efficacy of legacy systems and provide new capabilities to fill productivity gaps, among other improvements. By selectively following strategic vendors’ roadmaps, CIOs can incrementally grow their services and enhance value.
Innovation lifecycle tools. Specialized tools for portfolio and project management, idea generation and social collaboration have evolved to support the mechanics of idea collection, experience sharing, prioritization and measurement. These should be deployed in a focused manner consistent with the overall strategic objectives of the innovation portfolio, and actively managed by operational leadership. Innovation tools and processes also need to be embedded in the IT services catalog.
Analytics. Analytics can allow IT to deliver more value to the business by providing essential, need-to-know information. IT can also measure its own efficiency and identify opportunities for incremental or breakthrough improvements in existing spend and service levels. In addition, analytics are essential for evaluating the innovation lifecycle. The focus should be on actual business results and supporting metrics, which are critical to measured innovation.
Cloud-driven prototyping. Cloud delivery models can be applied to experimental, research-based innovation, allowing teams to quickly explore new ideas at low initial costs. Using a cloud model for initial prototyping and piloting lets the company substitute operating expenses based on actual usage for upfront capital expenditures, and eliminates the ongoing burden of asset depreciation if ideas don’t pan out.
Innovation ecosystems and idea networks. CIOs can take advantage of outside-in thinking. To help flesh out their target solution architectures, they can open their innovation processes to external parties, including open source options and niche third-party offerings. This is especially true for sustaining innovations, where intellectual property ownership and usage issues may be less sensitive.
Social and mobile. Social business and enterprise mobility are changing the way business is conducted and, increasingly, allowing new operating and business models to emerge. IT organizations should be educating their business counterparts on the potential of these new technologies – and preparing for the groundswell of demand once the implications are understood.
CIOs should not be content with simply managing the portfolio of in-flight investments. They should also champion new opportunities that align with the business strategy. CIOs already understand how new technologies can add value to the business – they must complement this with the foresight and fortitude to take a stand for potentially revolutionary change. Technology tools will be a critical facilitator of this effort, helping to transform creativity into value.
Deloitte Consulting LLP