Governments will not engage with agencies beyond official procurement or existing contractual relationships. This often results in a lot customisation being required, making the system costly, hard to maintain and only partially supported by the vendor.
My client set up an innovation centre, a standalone infrastructure and collaboration environment as a 'sandpit' to test, pilot and trial vendor offerings.
It then invited IT vendors to participate, to sponsor its projects and be involved in creating new, innovative products. Staff provided clear feedback in a workshop-style format as the products moved through the stages of development.
The clear difference is that my client — the government agency — isn't asking the vendor to do anything, and it is up to the vendor to determine the resources they commit and over what time frame.
The cost to the agency is their effort in providing feedback and defining requirements with the rest of the cost belonging to the vendor. And it's a relatively small price to pay for the vendor which can now develop a product that meets the needs of many agencies in any country.
The agency also benefits greatly because it can now purchase and implement software that requires minimal customisation.
This particular initiative also worked well because c-level managers supported a new innovation framework; and governance rules were set up correctly form the outset, including terms of reference, controls and a defined process.
Create a new culture
Creating a culture of innovation is most effective when all staff are encouraged to think of new ways of doing things and are not judged or criticised for their ideas.
Including creativity exercises into existing organisational practice is one way of encouraging this approach through, for example, new starter induction and staff planning days.
Unlike most other practices in an organisation, failure should be viewed as a healthy and normal aspect of the innovation lifecycle. The rate of failure can be viewed as a performance indicator, with the greater the failure rate the more successful the organisation has been in embedding innovation as part of its culture.
This is because it can generally indicate a staff's willingness to be thinking creatively of ways to innovate, in a structured and open way, without fear of rejection. Capturing these ideas and educating staff on the process that is involved are important steps in creating an innovative culture.
From a psychological perspective, it can be quite soul destroying to have your ideas rejected, but if there is a structured process in place, with clear, timely and constructive feedback, then staff should not be dissuaded from thinking creatively and how ideas might manifest themselves into workable and practical solutions.
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