Bobby Cameron came up next and begun by highlighting how little IT sometimes matters to business innovation – even innovative companies and CEOs don’t think of their IT in this way. So why is this a problem? Executives say one thing but do another:
- Innovation is a “priority” but not on the executive team’s agenda.
- CEOs talk about needing new business models but they invest only in new products and services
- They want internal innovation but only look externally
- Technology is supposed to be transformational but they only deploy it for efficiency
IT adds to this problem by:
- Focusing on cost and quality not innovation
- Hesitating and waiting for the business to request it – taking orders
- Burdening innovation with heavy processes and stage gates etc
He argues that IT can become an innovation leader and help firms find, fund and deliver innovation. However there are some issues. Given the definition they use, inventions aren’t innovations unless they generate business impact and adapting existing things to new uses can be. People often think that, between the regular ongoing investments and game-changing ideas is a break point where they move from “business as usual” to “innovation”. Yet innovation can come at any point in the continuum. However, the middle ground is hard to do a business case for – it’s not running the business nor is it dramatic. Finally there is a question of where to look – what is the innovation network from which ideas can come. Companies like P&G don’t just invent things and transform ideas they are also brokering and financing ideas inside and outside the company.
For an IT department this innovation network consists of other parts of the organization as well as suppliers and partners. IT can be an inventor, but this is rare and it cannot really do financing either. IT is better at being a transformer – taking ideas and convert them into business value – and at being a broker to link the parties needed for innovation to work.
It is not enough, though, to find the right innovations you must also be able to fund them. To do this you must understand the context for innovation in your company, the innovation network, and have a defined and measured process with funding ownership (money and team separate from business as usual).
He ended by discussing how, if there is too much resistance to having IT lead innovation, then IT departments can try some tactical steps:
- Focus people on innovation culture – hiring, training, cross-training
- Make innovation part of day to day processes like portfolio management
- Use technology and tools to inspire and capture innovation (idea markets, portfolio management or end user development tools – like business rules)