As business organizations continue to struggle with the decision of ‘if and when’ and then ‘what’ within their systems and processes should go into the cloud, there is this gathering, if not overwhelming view, that the cloud will bring IT closer to the business needs of today.
Innovation is certainly one of those in need of concerted effort to bring up to date within organizations, to make it more inclusive and that can come through delivering it across the organization within the cloud. Highly visible, agile and core to the organizations future, seen by all and truly valued.
Let me outline my initial thoughts here, put the seat belt on for the ride please: making the business case.
The cloud solutions do seem to look promising for those adopting a strategy of increased use of the cloud as a future IT approach. They seems less emphasis on the cost savings but its potential to improve business flexibility and gain access to a wider array of technologies and solutions. Also there is a growing view that the cloud supports critical aspects required today and in the future, that are more radical in organizational design.
Those that look to run IT processes in the cloud, such as development tools, test tools, development systems, test systems, service management and performance management as well as incorporating SaaS offerings (such as Salesforce) with their internal systems, and with this host of cloud hosted systems to make hybrid architectures that promise radical changes can be realized within our organizations.
If these changes can be delivered, then I think they will be welcome by all sides inside organizations, each grappling with all the changes swirling around the business today and forecasted to become even more volatile in the future.
Clearly organization design and its core processes and systems needs fresh, vastly different approaches, to tackling chronic organizational rigidity that is seen today. Business unit leaders are frustrated with a lack of new, more radical solutions to their needs of being responsive and agile.
Switching into the cloud can transform IT as a provider of on-demand service when the business needs it!
Switching to the cloud can also radically alter the position of IT as a real provider of the services you need to do the job, when it is needed, more on-demand. It can offer those in ITa future role of looking constantly towards being the ‘go to’ service provider, that is constantly adding the supporting structures for supporting new value and impact in flexible systems and processes that can constantly be adaptive to meet the business needs.
Critically the cloud can help significantly in the quest for speed, agility, scalability as well as being designed for the increasing need of having in place support structures for a more ambidextrous organization. These need different solutions than today’s systems and will become the big IT challenge to manager over the next few years.
There is a constant talk in IT circles of “everything is a service” and if this translates as the business expects this can have a real transforming ring to it. Business groups require faster execution, reduced time-to-value and higher levels of flexibility, and perhaps, IT might have a way to deliver these through the cloud. The promise is ‘hanging out’ there it seems.
Bringing innovation fully into the corporate fold
Thankfully, for many perhaps, innovation has been a little out, off on one side of enterprise resource planning. To some degree this has helped but also is rapidly becoming a real performance drag, innovation needs to be more central in core process thinking.
I believe the solution is to buy into ‘innovation in the cloud’ as the next practice idea. Today many innovation processes and systems have been fairly stand alone, remote from the clutches of IT and not being ‘integrated’ into the Enterprise Resource platforms so far, would all have to go and that will have a few cries of “OMG no!”
On-premise IT solutions for innovation remain highly constrained.
I’m certainly against innovation continuing to stay in the on-premise platform at all. Of course, any migration plans will give the current systems sometime but the cloud just seems to be an alluring prospect that meets many of innovations needs.
Innovation can only really thrive and move considerably up a notch or two in performance and recognition, if it can obtain the integrated flexibility and achieve the more open access to all shades of business agility that can be found, if we have the opportunity.
Innovation runs counter to repeatable processes; it needs to leverage this ambidexterity of having access to all that makes it adaptable– nimble, agile, constant change, and experimentation, prototyping that is tailored to explore incremental innovation in faster, more flexible ways.
Alongside this to allow for more radical innovation that taps into greater needs for mobility, usability, elasticity and yet still be aligned to leverage, exploit and maximise opportunities needs to run in parallel. It sounds a tall order doesn’t it, yet I’m not sure it actually is, when you stand back and think about this and try to begin to piece together all the pieces of the puzzle.
I think there are multiple ways forward exploiting the cloud
There are many thoughts one could explore with a little bit of imagination, alongside a decent knowledge of what is possible today and what can be possible in the future, that is already in our ‘present line-of-sight by using something like the three horizon methodology. I’ve also written about the need for a “innovation mashup” previously, as well as I can see the clear advantages that all these emerging platforms are providing that are delivering radically new innovative business models. Large organizations need to climb on board to thinking innovation differently.
Large organizations are lagging in the ‘responsive league’ clearly, they need to think beyond holding everything in house and look towards a more radical innovation agenda for change. Growth does not come from incremental dripping techniques; it comes from spotting emerging opportunities and turning those into commercial value as quickly as possible. The current legacy within any innovation systems is creating such a drag on organizations current innovation performance and why are our organizations not recognizing this?
Putting innovation in the cloud is itself disruptive.
It offers the real chance to innovate existing business practices, it can give increased visibility. Innovation can be ‘seen’ throughout the organization, not tucked away in dark corners, scrabbling to gain attention. If you take the example of what salesforce.com did in cloud computing to transform the customer end, then why can’t getting innovation on multiple platforms in the cloud really show its potential as well? Then innovation connects and suddenly the customer becomes a co-creator of value and collaboration really comes to the fore also, as something necessary and needed.
The speed of any innovation implementation process is determined by demand and acceptance though.
Any new design is determined by its adoption, diffusion and usage, all the way through to exploitation and uptake. I’ve written about the need to adopt improved practices for capturing and distributing knowledge through applying absorptive capacity that give greater structure and receptiveness to change that is increasingly needed to cope with growing inflows of information, knowledge and increased big data insights.
We need to find ways to ‘push’ organizational readiness for innovation to change and that comes from the top really pushing harder to achieve real growth from new opportunities but supporting the infrastructural changes this requires, a real place for IT and HR to become more involved in preparing change.
We also need to reflect on what is needed to help assimilate innovation as it will continue to have a complex, non-linear need in processes and this often in the past has simply kept it out of the ERP space, for example.
Equally due to this exclusion, sometimes the constant need to focus on innovation falls out of the corporate line-of-sight daily, as it is not part of this core, organizational supported process, it operates on one side for many to feel not involved. It comes back into the spotlight only when something has not happened, not as promised and that then ‘expends’ lots of negative energy chasing down answers, seeking explanations.
Resolving existing thorny issues need to be brought bring into the innovation cloud equation.
We need to tackle some problems within the innovation that will simply not ‘go away’ but will remain thorny issues until we tackle them ‘full on’.
The greater emphasis on the softer aspects of innovation in skills, attributes and collaborative techniques calls for different thinking on talent development, learning new topics, working in different, far more project related ways that are responsive and agile to ‘seize the opportunity’ by actively seeking the solutions that are available but most probably beyond the walls of the organization and this can be through the cloud.
The art of letting go and opening up to collaboration and co-creation is a growing challenge for all organizations. The pressure is on finding the ‘ways and means’ to enable that to happen. Another strong argument for promoting the cloud where you have a constant array of collaborative tools and applications help draft, design, brainstorm, make mock-ups live, sharing to do lists in real-time, manage projects, offer concept board development on the fly, provide facilities for all aspects of audio, mind mapping and creative enhancing techniques and on and on.
I’d argue that innovation needs the very best ways to tease out understanding, not locked in selected mindsets of product developers. We need to offer interactive, real-time collaboration tools to make the design and execution of innovation a whole lot better.
Lastly, without droning on more, we need to find ways to orchestrate, monitor, allow for broader performance monitoring, adding tools as needed on demand, to build and deploy capacity management and modelling outcomes against performance within innovation all are needed. We need to change the ways we report on our total innovation activity, not in the days and weeks these requests can take, but at speed the cloud can potentially provide and the business requires, fast.
So I am making my call of innovation and its need to head towards the cloud fast!
We have come a long way in understanding innovation, yet it still stays locked in legacy systems and structures. We need to make future choices on what we want out of our innovation activity, much of the same as today or the ability to move it into a new domain of performance?
To do this we have to navigate through all the hype and mystic surrounding innovation, we have to be bolder in testing out capabilities to experiment and explore the options we have available today in new software, tools, thinking and applications.
We have to take clearer positions on the best applications to do the job and not settle for today’s poor compromises of having one stage gate system for example, we need to feel comfortable to leverage and extend our resources and capacities to innovate and learn on a continuous basis how to exploit the opportunities in agile, flexible and real-time ways.
Making the business case
For me, to achieve this we must go cloud-based, agile, and moving towards having a more ambidextrous organization design for innovation. This will help innovation to break out of the existing constraints and linear approach we have given it as its straight jacket. It will not come overnight, a cloud-based innovation capability but I see no reason why it can’t be delivered in less than five years.
I’m sure there are some out there wanting to bring this hugely disruptive potential into realization quicker than that, it has a real business case potential in my opinion. Does it for you?