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What you need to do to innovate

Brett Petersen | Dec. 17, 2013
Tips for making innovation work inside your organisation


There has been a lot written about innovation over the past five years, with wide recognition that new practices will improve productivity, service delivery and provide competitive advantage.

Innovation is certainly one of the 'buzz' terms that is used too often and in the wrong context. Google the word "innovation" and you'll get many definitions.

But the focus needs to be on the general intent, namely the alignment of innovation with the concept of continuous improvement.

This can range from incremental improvements to business as usual processes through to brand new services and products or new ways of doing things. Achieving any of these can require disruption and a shake-up of existing thinking and normal enterprise process.

This is where an innovation framework, spearheaded by an effective governance structure can help.

The governance piece is covered by the manage innovation process within the COBIT framework, with the goals being to create enterprise value, achieve enterprise objectives, and promote and enable a culture of enterprise innovation.

Specifically, version 5 of COBIT places a strong emphasis on creating a culture of innovation across the enterprise, even going so far as to recommend innovation as part of the HR framework.

Even risk-averse organisations from the more conservative industry sectors such as government or banking realise that the effective application of innovation enables businesses to flourish through better services and improved competitive advantage.

Innovation often comes from creative thinking and thinking outside of the constraints of defined policy and procedures, 'the way we do things around here'. However, the successful application of innovation doesn't always come from dedicated investments through R&D cells or structured think-tanks.

And it doesn't always have to relate to new inventions or completely new ways of doing things, innovation can also be incremental, for example the use of existing technology in a new way.

Industry engagement
Engaging with the ICT sector is one way of understanding the emerging technology environment and how it may relate to your organisation. Obviously, the ICT industry wants to focus on developing commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software that it knows users will want.

While user and customer feedback on existing products through a variety of techniques and practices is helpful, a deeper engagement linking product development with direct client input will reap even greater benefits.

For example, one of my clients, a medium-sized federal government agency wanted to leverage the ICT sector's product development investments to produce software to meet its own needs and those of its peer agencies.

This can be challenging for government, with several regulations dictating rules of engagement, particularly around procurement. Because of this, vendors are often left second guessing and making certain assumptions when they are creating products.


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