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Role of IT in the Company's Innovation Process - Part- II

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Role of IT in the Company’s Innovation Process

Q&A with Jatin DeSai, CEO The DeSai Group (March 21, 2011)

6)       Much of the advice on innovation talks about how important it is that the CEO champions innovation efforts, that without his/her sanctioning and rewarding, it's pretty impossible to create innovation in a company. First off, what are your thoughts on this?

  1. It depends on the size of the organization and definition of innovation (video). If we are talking about innovation culture, I agree. If we are talking about innovative products only, it does not have to be owned by the CEO but the CTO or R&D or the BU heads with full support of the CEO.
  2. In the beginning of the innovation journey, recognition is more important then rewards. We have developed a 9-window framework to help organizations think through the delicate issues related to R&R. No doubt R&R should be there, but it has to be designed with high precision.

7)       Going further, I think that even in less than ideal situations, you will still see resourceful people creating innovation in their own little area. Any thoughts on that? And perhaps if you're an IT leader stuck in that kind of situation, what you can do to lead innovation in a "hostile" environment?

  1. I don’t think everyone within IT can be natural intrapreneur. However, there are many such people within each IT departments waiting to be discovered. They need an ‘innovation process’ that allows them to easily experiment their ideas quickly without the gravitational burden of the organization upon their shoulders.
  2. Some of these intrapreneurs have already demonstrated they can help drive innovation. Identify them, set up a simple innovation process, define an innovation goal for this year, provide a common language and a framework for innovation, and then design a structure that allows ideas to flow from bottom to the top without with least resistance.
  3. Your best innovators don’t need monetary rewards. In fact, in our experience, instead they want independence and freedom to test their ideas fast. They generally are working on much larger outcomes then their own personal gains. Real intrapreneurs are more motivated to ‘make a difference’ then to gain personal recognitions.
  4. Once you find these people, the environment (hostile or not) does not matter to them. Start your innovation journey with these people first.

8)       Any issues/points/challenges that I didn't cover that are important to this conversation?

  1. I believe that IT departments can be the best program managers for innovation. They can gain faster insights about the future trends in technologies.  IT departments in partnership with Marketing, can create powerful platform to gain deeper understanding of current and future needs of the customers. By combining these core skills of the two departments, strategic options can be developed to help improve clarity about the future and reduce broad spectrum of uncertainty for the management team. Developing early clarity, about any opportunity, should be a mandate for IT departments and Marketing department together. This is one critical issue, if addressed, can become a competitive advantage.
  2. IT departments can also play an important role in helping to remove internal barriers to execution. Every organization has core and enabling business processes. Every process contains constraints. A constraint in a business process reduces output and increases inefficiencies. Unfortunately, very few organizations targets removal of constraints for their internal customers.  IT departments should use its core skills to help remove these constraints and therefore improve the throughput of the sales and service metrics.  Waiting for the business to tell IT departments what they need is lot like asking a patient what medicine he needs. How should the patient know? Doctor (IT department) should know by taking keen interest in understanding the patient situation quickly.
  3. Finally, IT departments must broaden their view about their competition. All IT departments must compete on new factors moving forward. The new IT departments operate with a totally new DNA. The days when we thought of all IT jobs as ‘white collar’ jobs are coming to an end. The new paradigm includes a global delivery model where work is being done by both white and blue collar workers - business process outsourcing (BPO). This creates a great opportunity for IT professionals and IT departments. I believe the next big opportunity for IT is “Service Innovation (SI)”. SI is not well understood today and it is not just customer service or Voice of Customers. IT departments must reprogram themselves as service innovators, not just data processing units, in the coming years ahead.

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