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Innovation in IT: It Starts from the Top

Marc Capri

Marc Capri

Innovation is the lifeblood of any organization. It’s essential for progress and development, and it is a core component of any digital transformation process. But how do leaders ensure their organization provides the right environment for innovation to take place? 

It starts with leadership spearheading innovation at the top and creating a culture of innovation that filters down throughout an organization. Only in an environment where people can afford to take risks, fail, and learn from their mistakes will innovation thrive.  

Towards greater flexibility 

The ultimate destination for most organizations undergoing digital transformation today is greater flexibility and agility. Most often, this entails moving towards a set of software-as-a-service or platform-as-a-service technologies.  

Yet, many companies are still handling technologies of varying vintages. Insurance companies, for example, might be running their claims processing on the mainframe while needing to engage with client systems built on cloud native platforms. With multiple needs satisfied by different technologies, hybrid is the way forward. Organizations need to consider how a hybrid approach can best facilitate flexibility and agility for their businesses. 

Leading from the front 

Innovation should be a core part of any organization’s digital transformation strategy. Only with an innovative mindset will businesses be able to take full advantage of the technologies on offer. Business leaders must be accountable for spearheading this innovative approach. In every case, we need to be asking ourselves how we can do something, rather than focusing on why we can’t.  

This is where the pandemic has proven to be transformational. If you had asked business leaders 18 to 24 months ago whether they could shift to a full remote workforce in a matter of days, you would have met with considerable hesitancy. However, when Covid-19 swept across the globe, many businesses made remote working a reality almost overnight. We need only draw on this example to realize what is possible when we make bold changes and invest in their success. 

As well as being bold, it’s vital we lean into curiosity and question how things have always been done to find better alternatives. Businesses that have questioned traditional methods and approaches are the ones that leap ahead. In the insurance industry, firms that were born in the cloud have skipped ahead, unburdened by legacy tech, and are now challenging established firms that have been around for years. 

Of course, there is no silver bullet that will solve all an organization’s problems. IT leaders must adopt the right kind of technology for each use case. The best approach is to take advantage of the ‘best in class’ offerings from different partners and assemble different technologies in a way that best meets client needs. 

A culture of innovation  

Leadership is key, but innovation needs to flourish throughout an organization. To foster a culture of innovation within a business, the work environment needs to allow for failure, so employees feel comfortable taking chances and trying new things. If failure is punished, or if the environment stifles new ideas and approaches, this will only impede an organization’s ability to innovate and evolve. 

In a workplace where failing is okay, and even encouraged, people learn from their mistakes and move on to create better solutions. When an idea is working, a business can continue to invest in that idea. If an idea doesn’t work, cease activity on it and try something new. The ‘big bang’ or ‘waterfall’ approach, whereby transformation or innovation materializes as one big leap forward, is no longer desirable. Instead, incremental wins and a focus on improving day by day pave the way for success.  

As well as allowing for failure, organizations should be rewarding and recognizing innovation as it happens. Giving appropriate recognition to innovative employees is a way to retain top talent. With many tech workers’ skills currently in high demand, retention of high-quality talent will help ensure a business has the best team to carry through its digital transformation projects. 

The evolving role of IT 

Five to ten years ago, IT was an ancillary department in most businesses, providing support as an when needed. Today, IT is at the forefront of boardroom discussions and a core part of any business. This trajectory will only continue as we become increasingly dependent on technology and its capabilities.  

As we rely more heavily on technology, we must ensure that we are constantly improving it and working to create tech that can have a positive impact on the world around us. There is huge potential that can be realized through innovation. At the same time, a lack of innovation poses a significant risk. No business would choose the fate of Blockbuster over Netflix’s success. Innovation is the key to ensuring that businesses keep up with user demands and stay ahead of the curve as technologies develop and evolve. 

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