Is IT really the blocker to innovation?

on 10 February 2015

Innovation is a buzzing topic in many businesses but despite all the good intentions, senior level employees are like many people, getting on with their day job, so, in reality not much innovation is really happening and it always appears that IT gets the blame.

It seems businesses treat innovation the same way as we treat the environment: everyone is concerned about it but we only do something when it is really necessary, this appears to apply at all management levels. IT is often the business area where innovation is most expected because of the fast pace changes in the IT and tech world, however, in reality most companies see IT as the blocker rather than the instigator.

Innovation means taking risks, but many are inhibited by the world around them, because it is expected that mistakes are kept to a minimum and therefore risks cannot be taken. Innovation is often postponed until it really cannot wait any longer. It is not surprising to hear, 'we will have to innovate' in the corridors of a company but does anyone really mean it?

By dividing companies into business and service area units, most companies find themselves unwittingly working against innovation as new concepts usually do not fit into one of these predefined areas but across all of them. Therefore IT can be seen as the blocker because modern innovation tends to need IT input when in actual fact it's the process of innovation itself that tends to work against what it is trying to be achieved.

The urgency to innovate is often absent until it's too late and the need for innovation is only thought about in the scarce moments when the competition has already attacked and the turnover, market share and profit have been affected.
Money, manpower and management support for innovation are not structurally available but on an ad hoc basis and only on those occasions when it is necessary to 'put out any small fires'.

With an immediate need for innovation, it is often seen as merely a tick box exercise and rushed; customers are not involved in the innovation process or only get involved at a very late phase. This unfortunately means "innovation" fails but the IT system gets the blame.

So, what can IT do to be seen as the innovators and not the blockers to innovation?

Think outside the box, not just about an IT innovation but a business solution that has a genuine need and will impact the bottom line of the business.
There will always be a moment when other managers in look at things your way. That's the moment to show them your innovative vision and your practical roadmap to start an ideation approach that will lead to the revolutionary concepts everybody is waiting for.

You need others to help you to innovate in an organisation. It's a very important part of the IT department's role to prod the fire and get the urgency for innovation going but it's not your sole responsibility.

IT leaders already know that poor communication is a major problem in most businesses. However, they may not realise just how much of an impact it may be having on their attempts to foster innovation in their across the business.

Tim Morris director with Applause IT Recruitment comments "Having IT experts as primary innovators is not a bad thing in itself. However, when these experts are the only ones to control the flow of new ideas problems start to arise. Often times these experts will have had experiences with similar projects or systems which will cloud the way that they see the world.

This means that they may quash innovative IT ideas based on their personal experiences that would otherwise benefit the company. Maybe that's why IT is seen as the blocker rather than the reality checker"


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