“Innovation” has become a buzzword for many enterprises: If you’re not innovating, then you’re falling behind. And if you’re not constantly digitally transforming your business from top to bottom, then you’re not set up for success — or at least that’s what companies tend to believe.
The truth is, innovation and digital transformation are certainly important, but innovation for innovation’s sake can quickly set a business up for failure. There’s an infatuation with the need to be the most technologically advanced company in the name of differentiation. But what if many technological investments don’t drive actual business value? What if they end up creating more challenges for your enterprise down the road?
Now more than ever — as we move past the pandemic mindset of short-term survival and look toward long-term resiliency — there is a need for strategy. A first step is defining what you want your experience to be for your customers, employees and partners. We must invest in strategic implementation partners to help us innovate, taking the necessary steps to ensure technology delivers the maximum value for our own business.
Perform an Honest Internal Audit
Prior to investing in anything, an enterprise should understand itself fully. Conducting an internal audit of the entire business helps highlight strengths and weaknesses throughout all aspects of the enterprise — from IT infrastructure to your employees’ digital literacy and beyond.
In conducting this audit, the business will learn where its focus needs to be. We must ask and answer these questions to understand how technology can help drive value:
- What infrastructural red flags do we need to address?
- What problems are we facing that we must fix before we can consider something like a cloud migration, or implementing a new collaboration platform?
For example, if we find weaknesses during vulnerability assessments and pressure tests of an IT infrastructure, then we should focus our conversations on how technology can help plug those holes and bolster IT security. Perhaps unsupervised learning AI could help a company protect highly sensitive data from the next generation of cybercriminals, or a zero-trust infrastructure could help safeguard IP for a company that plans to continue full-remote work after the pandemic. It’s no longer about working vertically but about adopting a horizontal motion that allows us to be agile and aligned on the things that matter most.
Adoption Is Half the Battle
Understanding where technology is needed is key, but if a workforce doesn’t understand how to leverage a technology, then the investment is null and void.
Businesses need to build an infrastructure of constant learning so employees across all departments — from IT and DevOps to HR, sales and marketing — understand how any shift in the enterprise tech stack may affect their day-to-day roles. Learning management systems (LMS) have become the most common way of training and upskilling employees as teams remain distributed across regions and sometimes across the world.
Going forward, businesses must continue to engage with employees to encourage learning and adoption. Even if most workers return to the office, there still will be an integral need for education for future technology investments to succeed.
The same is true for our customers. Because of the value associated with adoption of any product, customer success or customer experience are evolving from being just an organization inside a company to being a company-wide motion or even core value. Customer experience is the best sales or marketing a company will ever have.
Prioritize Management and Oversight
Once you make an investment and leverage technology to meet a business need, the job is far from over. Technology requires constant hands-on management to ensure that the business is adapting to the change in its DNA — and to ensure that future shifts, both internal and external, are accompanied by the appropriate flex of its tech stack.
Integration partners are a valuable resource here, allowing the business to focus on what’s most important — serving its customers and innovation — while the third party ensures the business remains operationally efficient, no matter what. Therefore, the next phase is about activating that execution engine to ensure delivery at the speed and scale customers need.
IT must fluctuate against external factors, such as shifts in customer demand or changes in compliance and regulatory standards. The aforementioned infrastructure audit needs to be an ongoing exercise to allow the enterprise to adjust alongside these external shifts and stay ahead of potential crises down the road.
Change the Way You Think About Innovation
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and inspiration that new and emerging technologies bring. There’s a thrill that comes with moving at breakneck speed and pushing boundaries within an industry. That’s not to say businesses shouldn’t be excited for what technology has to offer. Excitement and passion are extremely important, but having an end-to-end company strategy aligned to your defined experience is essential.
Business must know that strategic investment is the key to success, and investing in technology for innovation’s sake without understanding how to capitalize on the value won’t drive results. To be successful, we need to change the way we think about innovation outright. It doesn’t need to be a constant uphill battle where enterprises fight tooth-and-nail to be the most technologically advanced. It’s an opportunity to refine aspects of the business that ultimately can deliver better experiences and returns — for customers, employees and the company as a whole.