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By Cormac Watters

The demand for disruptive innovation is insatiable.

Originally put forward in a Harvard Business Review piece in 1995 by Bower and Christensen, entire industries have now become accustomed to prolific market transformation driven by technology innovation.  

The net result has been that it is now only the fastest, most agile companies that survive and grow. It is evolution at full throttle and it is relentless and unforgiving.

This demands technology platforms that prioritise agility – the ability to adapt to changing circumstances, embrace simplicity and innovate faster and better with each iteration. 

These iterations have included modern software functionality such as augmented analytics, process intelligence, machine-learning, artificial intelligence, and Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities. These have driven the need for agile and streamlined deployments which have become the dominant concern. Technology projects must now be focussed on accelerating process improvements and ROI. 

Rapid deployment strategies built on agility, are now the keys to delivering disruptive innovation.

First iterations

Infor’s initial approach to this was the development of standardised CloudSuites, industry-specific solutions built on a refined understanding of what functionality should be included ‘out-of-the-box’. This enables a relentless, industry-specific focus on key deliverables based on proven implementation methodologies and clearly defined paths that accelerate the go-live process, create early wins and build momentum. 

To further speed the process, the company developed Implementation Accelerators (IAs). These IAs are industry focussed preconfigured solutions designed to deliver industry leading business processes, along with application configurations, implementation playbook, tools and templates. The tools provide a framework for implementing industry business processes, migrating data, establishing workflows and educating users on the features and functionality of the solution.

The final piece of the puzzle is delivering the capability and agility for businesses to develop their own innovation. 

Not all processes are created equal

Whilst CloudSuites and IAs provide industry specific business processes, not all business processes are created equal. Businesses need to determine which processes are most important to differentiate themselves.

The first 60 percent are core industry leading processes that businesses can adopt with very little effort. These are the processes that are necessary but do not provide differentiation. The goal for these 60 percent of the processes is very simple; adopt technology that delivers industry best practice as quickly as possible.

For the next 30 percent, businesses need to focus on the processes that are differentiators but still fall within the realm of configuration or small tweaks. While this does demand some effort, a business is not starting with a blank sheet, but instead is choosing from options which can be quickly tailored and configured to best fit their needs. 

The goal of these first two steps is to free up more time and capacity to focus on the 10 percent of processes that are highly differentiating/unique and help make dramatically better decisions, better customer experiences, or better performance within a specific supply chain. To coin the phrase: ‘this is where the magic happens’ and the leading businesses of tomorrow will spend the majority of time defining, refining and then redefining this last 10 percent.

This approach keeps implementations on track, keeps teams from wandering off into uncharted ‘wish lists’ and getting lost in theoretical ways of engineering a better mousetrap.

There is no finish line 

This strategy is not a one-time deal, or a ‘big bang’ approach. Businesses have realised that their technology must support continual innovation. If a business wants to embrace disruption, it must embrace it many, many times over and start on a path that is endless.  

As a result, when it comes to the technology that enables this innovation, the business must plan for multiple go-lives that are often a lot faster than previous projects (or liken it to multiple laps of the racetrack). Businesses can achieve working prototypes of entirely new processes or products within three months if there are no change requests for the first three months and the go-live date is fully committed to. And the technology can fit in this timescale as well. 

To keep the teams working in such intense ‘bursts’, there is a pressing need for flexibility – remote delivery is a key option.  In addition, there needs to be a heavy investment in the cultural change needed to achieve these results, when faced with IT teams that are used to older patterns of work and project timescales.

This cultural change should not be underestimated. Back to Bowers and Christensen who warned:

“…most well-managed, established companies are consistently ahead of their industries in developing and commercialising new technologies – from incremental improvements to radically new approaches – as long as those technologies address the next-generation performance needs of their customers. However, these same companies are rarely in the forefront of commercialising new technologies that don’t initially meet the needs of mainstream customers and appeal only to small or emerging markets.”

In other words, there is a need to develop new products before new competition spots the new market first. This can be a gargantuan task, especially when in the words of Bowers and Christensen: 

“In well-managed companies, the processes used to identify customers’ needs, forecast technological trends, assess profitability, allocate resources across competing proposals for investment, and take new products to market are focussed—for all the right reasons—on current customers and markets.” 

Owning the future

The pay-off for businesses that can achieve this kind of change is huge:  for the most agile businesses, the prize is nothing short of market and industry leadership in a new age of continuous delivery.  

Recent examples of this impact are the standard fare of marketing and MBA courses. Blockbuster falls to NetflixWikipedia takes the crown off Encyclopedia Britannica. Kodak tries to take on digital photography and loses. LED light bulbs decimate the incandescent market. 

The question is what is next?  3D printing takes on manufacturing? Online education elevates to the highest levels? VR and augmented reality redefines leisure? And the question that quickly follows is how to lead these markets of tomorrow.

It is already obvious that these new markets will demand that the simplistic automation of current ‘as-is’ processes transform into a focus on high-value differentiation areas.  

Expensive and risky big bang approaches will be forced to become a strategic, rapid series of incremental improvements that shrink time to market and instead of just surviving to reach go live, the IT department will have no choice but to become an engine of continuous delivery of innovations. It is a long overdue evolution.    

*Cormac Watters is president and head of international markets, Infor

Infor did not pay for this article

“The final piece of the puzzle is delivering the capability and agility for businesses to develop their own innovation.”