Whether small, medium, or enterprise level, businesses of all sizes aim to move onwards and upwards. With technology making it easier to disrupt the current cycle of how consumers interact with businesses, remaining stagnant or comfortable is no longer a viable business option. Recent history is rife with examples of corporate giants, set in their ways or blind to changing needs in consumer habits, that were toppled by tech start-ups who soon thrived in their wake (i.e. Blockbuster, Sears, Toys R Us, etc.) For any organization to succeed, they must invest in business innovation, and that often starts and ends with the IT department.
What is Business Innovation?
Business innovation entails creating new processes, concepts, ideas, products, or business solutions that increase the overall success or profitability of the business. Whether it is as simple as creating a new workflow that saves a drastic amount of time for employees, or implementing a new product or solution that satisfied an unfilled consumer need (think Airbnb and Uber), business innovation is the fuel that drives businesses forward.
Generally seen in start ups, businesses today look to solve a consumer need with a new, innovative use of technology. Uber drastically simplified the process of calling for a ride, Airbnb expanded and simplified consumer options for booking short term room rentals, and Netflix predicted a shift in how people want to watch movies and television shows.
However, there are also many examples of established organizations that shifted and innovated to stay relevant. One example is business giant Google. Seemingly poised to take over the world, Google’s initial business model was extremely shaky. In the first few years of Google’s existence, they often resorted to selling their own search engine technology to other search engines to stay alive. However, that all changed in 2003 with the launch of Google AdWords. No longer a simple search engine, Google turned a massive profit by charging businesses to advertise to people searching for things on the internet. This was not only a brand new use of their services, but also changed the shape of the internet forever.
Another example of an established business that grew through business innovation is Amazon. Beginning as a simple online bookstore, today, Amazon is not only the largest retailer in the world, but has also shifted into becoming a technology giant with the launch of Amazon Web Services in 2002. Today, from the roots of simply selling books online, Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos has used business innovation to become the richest person in modern history.
In a tech centric world, business innovation relies on the IT department. This can come in the form of implementing new communications tools that drive productivity or creating a client ordering portal that improves sales and the client experience. What ever the means, business innovation has become an important mandate for IT leaders. Below are three ways IT leaders can help drive innovation, and future success, for their business.
Innovation Tip #1: Offload What You Can
While it has now become an overused saying, the concept of offloading day to day IT tasks to third parties has proved to foster business innovation. In addition to cost savings, freeing up time for innovation is one of the primary drivers for Cloud services today. Where IT Managers in the past were tasked with getting computers secure and running, that has now shifted into a more business focused approach. By offloading regular IT maintenance to a third-party company, businesses can not only improve their IT stance, but have the required mental bandwidth needed to push the business into the future.
Innovation Tip #2: Prepare your Infrastructure for Change
One of the common issues that causes a lack of innovation and digital transformation is an aging IT infrastructure that isn’t capable of supporting the demands of modern employees and consumers. This can be a lack of physical space for additional servers or memory, or simply a slow, outdated environment that can’t keep up with basic business needs. This is another area where Managed Services and third-party IT providers can help. Cloud services and other Managed Services allow your business to scale and adjust quickly by only paying for what you need. This can become a platform for business innovation as you now have a strong footing to take on new, efficiency driven solutions for your business.
Innovation Tip #3: Plan Smartly
As the saying goes, when it comes to your technology, you should always measure twice and cut once. Proper planning for the future of your technology infrastructure is critical when it comes to business innovation. Today, many organizations focus on creating technology roadmaps that document important renewal dates, track ongoing IT projects, and capture future changes coming down the road. Planning is a critical part of any innovation initiative since there are often many moving parts to major IT projects, and each component needs to be completed properly for any big payoff to work.
Innovation Tip #4: Project Management
If possible, organizations should dedicate a project management resource towards any internal IT project. This is an important step to be taken during your business innovation projects that can prevent them from bloating or derailing. Project Management not only helps keep track of time and resources, but a seasoned IT Project Manager will have an eye on the prize at the end, and they will help ensure that each step along the way is completed correctly.
Innovation Tip #5 Proper Reporting and Tracking
Since business innovation projects often have a lot riding on their success, the executive team will have a strong interest in how the project is going. This ties in heavily will Project Management, as Project Managers will be responsible for tracking the progress of the project. Make sure that you keep track of important dates for your project, and have stats ready when the executive team comes knocking.
In general, focus is the most important aspect of any business innovation project, as distractions in the form of IT firefighting or disorganized resources can throw a wrench into your good intentioned plan. Make sure your business is ready for the future by first offloading critical IT resources to the Cloud where you can. Partnering with a Managed Services organization can also help your innovation goals thrive, as you will not only free up your time, but you will also be providing yourself with access to additional technical resources and experience that could prove critical for the future success of your organization.