Innovation in simple terms is doing anything better, differently and faster than the competition. At the collective level it may even be a competitive advantage. Innovation must be part of the day to day life and at all levels. It’s not the responsibility of the few, but that of all. When it takes on a cultural dimension, it has the capability of giving sustainable results.
Now, that’s easier said than done. Let me speak on behalf of IT that stands to play a crucial role in creating an innovate everywhere, every moment and everyone culture. And the simple logic is that when mundane things get done in an automated manner, people have the time and energy to devise new ways and create new value.
That’s the mantra IT must follow. Automate every bit of a process, function and the value chain so that information flows smoothly for speedier decision making and process rendition. Many follow partial automation like one or few task automations in any existing process, which is more like putting a patch as and when required. But that’s not even close to the benefits that an end to end automation can provide. End to end process automation can essentially translate the big picture into business outcomes as well as customer experience. Given this, one may ask why enterprises still struggle with IT.
The biggest challenge that enterprises face, especially the large ones, is that of legacy. While legacy represents older generations of technology not built for the digital applications of today, it also represents huge investments into core IT infrastructure and applications that cannot be done away with. I wish enterprises had the option of throwing out the old and getting the new overnight. But that is not possible. Apart from dollars already spent, it’s also time consuming to change lock stock and barrel. And more importantly, it can be very disruptive to the business. Even if IT can be changed overnight, user habits and practices cannot. It is here that requires an approach that goes beyond traditional task based automation.
Innovation culture encompassing everywhere, every moment and everyone becomes critical here to solve for these complex environments. The challenge can be met only by thinking innovatively, not just as a one time activity, and building functional bridges between the front end (which is often new and at the periphery) and the back end (which is often legacy and at the core) through holistic automation of the connecting processes. This leads to the development of a very context specific solution, that is often the genesis of competitive differentiation that cannot be easily replicated.
Though we have undertaken numerous initiatives that have come to define our way of marrying legacy with the modern, let me discuss two of them here.
1. Creating a layer of automation that surrounds the legacy system of a client. If the latter cannot be changed and must be managed ‘as is’, a lot of efficiency has to be squeezed out of it. That’s the only way to create value. The surrounding layer of automation ensures that the process of managing the system is handled in the most automated fashion, which is not only efficient but also secure.
2. Creating a layer of automation that surrounds any off the shelf product that manages a particular task in the IT management landscape, e.g. compliance. Though the third-party product comes with its own set of features, a lot more can be done that is context specific and hence capable of unique processes that cannot be replicated easily by the competition. The adaptation may require automation of every tiny bit of the processes that are involved in interfacing with the product, information flow between people and processes and decision making.
A similar kind of automation of processes, decision making and communication can be done in almost every domain of business, e.g. payments, collections, inventory, customer service, recruitment, training and development, performance management, and talent management. The list can be quite long, and possibilities endless.
Of course, there is also a gradual transition that is happening towards modernising the infrastructure and in principally moving towards the cloud. But a broad and deep agenda on automation shall always remain relevant for getting the best out of third-party software and hardware infrastructure. Moreover, an end to end automated IT management environment must also be built for efficient, secure, optimized and agile IT landscape.
I believe, IT can create an environment that is so high on ease of working that individuals can invest their efforts on thinking of better ways of doing work and thereby creating more value.
With digital applications constantly changing consumer behaviour and expectations, it is a tremendous advantage to have a culture of innovation across all levels. More than anything else, it is about nurturing a collective mindset that does not shy away from challenges but rather is focused on finding solutions and committed to continuously improving them.