by Jim Stikeleather, Chief Innovation Officer at Dell Services, discusses business innovation
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Jim Stikeleather, Chief Innovation Officer at Dell Services, discusses business innovation
A business innovation initiative starts with building processes, systems, education programs, and obtaining funding that can be integrated into day‐to‐day operations as well as the culture of a company.
There are several foundational building blocks that are required to make business innovation happen, not just once in awhile, but over and over again. These foundational building blocks include:
• Create a systemic culture of innovation starting at the C‐level through to front‐line workers
• Understand how creativity and innovation work
• Establish an Innovation Group within the organisation
• Develop an innovation process and infrastructure
• Redesign business processes to co‐create value with customers and trading partners
• Connect the entire value delivery system to end‐to‐end business processes
• Work across countries and time‐zones in a living business ecosystem
• Create multi‐company virtual enterprise networks that are banded and disbanded with the ebb and flow of business
• Deploy high‐performance teams whose communication protocols are based on information bursts instead of commands (Bioteams)
• Understand the requirements that are necessary to make the vision a reality, including reaching outside the company to gather and assess ideas, and then “do the work”
This goes beyond just funding an initiative and on to the committed belief in systemic innovation throughout the organisation. Just consider Google, Apple, Dell and Amazon. Their CEOs didn’t delegate “innovation,” Larry Page, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell and Jeff Bezos were and are in effect their companies’ Chief Innovation Officers. With executive commitment, large companies can empower thousands of employees to contribute to business innovation, everywhere, everyday. The executive team needs to understand that failures are expected within an innovation program, they cannot go into a given initiative believing that every endeavour will result in great success.
Because not every innovative idea, proof of concept, or solution will be successful, it’s best to group innovation programs into two categories, Plan of Intent and Plan of Record. The Plan of Intent involves innovation areas where a company will investigate, research, engineer and document various forms of innovations. These types of projects are more proactive in nature and allow the company to look at various trends, social media and industry observations, then assimilate that information to make recommendations as to where a company should be focusing attention. These are fail fast and often types of endeavours – used to learn and improve.
The Plan of Record allows a company to identify specifically where it will invest and commit to deliver results. These innovation projects tend to be more reactionary in nature and have a lower risk associated with them because we can clearly see customer needs and demand for those categories of innovative solutions.
Keep in mind that an innovation is not just a product or service, but can involve processes, business models, types of relationships among the partners and customers, etc. If you are only thinking in terms of what you can sell, then your world of innovation is way too small.
There are more and more examples of innovation efforts whose success is due to the thoughtful use of non-traditional, external sources of information and ideas. However, significant barriers exist in many enterprises to capitalise on the potential benefits of open innovation. Open innovation does not necessarily mean external innovation. Internal, non-traditional participants can open up the innovation process and contribute increased value.
The objective as an industry innovator is to help ensure that both customers and suppliers are successful and able to grow and thrive. To achieve that, a company must recognise the need to work with a high degree of collaboration at every level, whether in solution design, operational integration, service‐level management or change management processes. By working together with its customers and suppliers, a company can expect to identify innovative solutions that can help it meet its current and future business objectives.
To fulfil the role as a key influencer of innovation with our customers and suppliers, a company should jointly develop Innovation Plans with its customers and suppliers. Having a comprehensive and well‐maintained plan facilitates the implementation of innovative ideas, products and services that bring real value. The Innovation Plan is a resource and a guide that documents the high‐level processes the multi‐company team uses to identify viable innovation opportunities. It is used as a governance resource as well as a resource for new members of the team to understand the current status of innovation initiatives. When the first Innovation Plan is collaboratively produced, it will consist of an Innovation Roadmap of items that are set to be implemented as part of the first initiative as well as a view of possible innovations that could be implemented in the future. Typically, the Innovation Plan is updated at six‐month intervals, but may be updated more frequently as business conditions warrant.
The Innovation Plan details the processes that are used to regularly identify ideas to review, log and track the innovative ideas that are presented and implemented, and includes a feedback loop to help refine and tune the plan. For emerging or anticipated issues for which there is no planned solution in the Innovation Plan of Record or Plan of Intent, a Value Challenge can be submitted to help solve the problems proactively.
An innovation program can foster stronger competitive advantage, contribute to a company’s recognition as an industry leader, and increase customer satisfaction, while also helping business partners be more competitive in their fields.
Being innovative means being competitive and bringing value to both a company’s trading partners and its customers. While on one hand, a company can continue to reduce its costs and remain competitive, today’s customers want more than simply reduced costs. On the other hand, a company’s business partners want to team up with a company that can enable them, and the entire value chain, to be competitive. Cutting costs is just one small part of the equation. Adding unique value is the critical variable in the competitive advantage equation.