In today's competitive environment, where businesses face more extreme pressures and are challenged to be more efficient than ever, companies must excel at innovation to succeed and grow, writes
Chris Moyer, chief technologist for EDS in EMEA.
Enterprises today face an explosion of digital content, ageing infrastructures and constrained resources. Harnessing the creativity of internal teams, suppliers and industry experts can help businesses to find solutions to address some of these pressures. However, to deliver practical value, innovation must be a fundamental part of a company's core objectives.
I recently attended the EDS Practical Innovation Summit, where we discussed tips for businesses who want to make innovation easier to effect within their organisations. From this, I've distilled five steps to help any organisation develop an Innovation Ideal.
Firstly, identify what you want innovation to do for you. Innovation varies between organisations. Many organisations are looking for that increased level of intimacy or transparency between themselves and their customers others want new products or services.
The key is to have a prioritised view of your requirements. The diagram below demonstrates some of the continuous pressures that our clients encounter and the impact of these on innovation. External factors might also be driving their business strategy, and these also feed in to pressures that clients need solutions to, eg being more environmentally friendly.
The next step is to understand what you know - and what you need to find elsewhere. Investigate what capabilities you have in-house to encourage innovation.
Many companies have specialists in different subject matters that can help with incremental innovation and some even have R&D departments that look for step-change innovation that radically changes a product or service.
Others have collaborated with a network of organisations such as universities to get more ideas and co-ordinated research.
EDS has long encouraged collaboration. Today, with our Agility Alliance partners, we invest the combined weight of an estimated $20bn in annual research and development.
Once you've understood what you know, you can start to encourage ideas. Most organisations claim to have great communications between groups and through layers of leadership. While this is true for some, others still need mechanisms to allow people to share their ideas with others for synthesis, analysis, evaluation, and hopefully investment.
At EDS, we use several mechanisms to gather and prioritise different ideas from across our organisation, such as the EDS Innovative Ideas Programme (EIIP), which is web-based, allowing organisations to capture, prioritise and communicate ideas across their teams, reaching across organisational boundaries and allowing anyone to suggest better ways of working.
More than 1,000 ideas were submitted through the EDS Idea Campaigns programme in 2007 and 60 EDS clients have installed versions of EIIP to get the same benefits within their organisation.
However, ideas and invention are great, but it is only through implementing these that ideas transform into innovation. Different mechanisms can be used to prioritise ideas and ensure roll-out.
A specific agenda focused on innovation is one mechanism in place for EDS accounts in EMEA. Another is linking different skills, successful innovation agendas and subject matter experts through our Innovation JumpStart Programme while encouraging innovators through active patent programmes is one more.
The last step - that of implementation - is always the hardest part of the change process. Changes require active sponsors, careful management, excellent communication and agility to adapt to the different situations that will come up as you attempt to make innovation a continuous activity at your organisation.
One mechanism that EDS uses is a Global Innovation Network (GIN) that serves as one central repository for activities, subject matter expertise, industry views and solutions that worked elsewhere. In 2007, there were 629 clients listed and referenced on the GIN with 151 formal innovation agendas in place and 232 targeted initiatives tracked. All of our employees can access this information, and use it across industries to help other clients.