Innovation: How to Implement New Ideas

The CIO Executive Council shares strategies, tips and insights on creating processes for innovation.

This Forum is a follow-up to our Jan. 1 column, which focused on how CIOs can create innovative cultures. Here, we explore how to create processes for innovation.

On the surface, putting “innovation” and “process” together seems oxymoronic. Process conjures boundaries; innovation, some say, is best fostered in unfettered environments. But smart CIOs understand the need for both in pursuit of the new.

From Concept to Rollout

Through an initiative called “Connect and Develop,” Procter & Gamble’s CEO has mandated that 50 percent of the company’s innovation come from outside the enterprise. Robert Scott, P&G’s vice president of innovation and architecture, Global Business Services (currently on loan to CincyTechUSA, an organization to drive growth in Cincinnati), is charged with realizing this goal in IT.

“You’re going to have to let innovation flow in and out of the walls of your organization and in and out of your company,” Scott says. Therefore, he built connections to the labs of P&G alliance partners like IBM, SAP and Hewlett-Packard and conducts regular “discovery journeys” to Silicon Valley. For the “develop” part of the mandate, Scott and the rest of P&G employ “SIMPL” (Simplified Initiative Management and Product Launch), which shepherds concepts toward execution. This process is broken into six phases: Discovery, the search for opportunities and ideas; Design, where concepts turn into prototypes; Qualify, where ideas are validated; Ready, preparing for launch; Launch; and Leverage, a step Scott added to market and maximize adoption of IT solutions. (See the online version of this article for more details and see the process schematic below.)

The Importance of Process

At Stanford Hospital & Clinics, CIO Carolyn Byerly implemented an innovation process framework in the aftermath of a decision to outsource IT to remake the CIO’s office into a more strategic and innovative one. “I wanted a structured way to select ideas and take them all the way to execution,” says Byerly. Her framework includes risk analysis, a key element for this $1.4 billion healthcare organization.

Byerly’s five-phase process framework encompasses governance and project management (to see Byerly’s grid, go to the online version of this story at www.cio.com/030107). Each phase has its own metrics, such as the number of new ideas generated, elapsed time to selection and the percentage of internal and external resources used. Byerly uses the metrics to report on the progress of her projects, which in turn enhances the credibility of the framework.

Like P&G, Bayer North America has a corporate innovation initiative to harness ideas wherever they exist. Called “Triple I” (Innovation, Ideas, Inspiration), the program is supported by a global employee portal. All IT-related ideas are sent to Claudio Abreu, senior VP and North American CIO, Bayer Corporate Business Services, who turns them over to an innovation team that engages business users to validate their potential and appeal. If the business likes the solution and it’s proven viable, the idea goes through a project request process and moves into a pilot phase and then, potentially, to production.

One notable success story is Bayer’s implementation strategy for a MySAP upgrade affecting 25,000 global users. Developed via the innovation process, it improved Bayer’s ERP implementation and testing results through a combination of commercial software tools and a new approach to engaging the business. The result was a MySAP platform designed to support a $9 billion company implemented in less than six months.

Advice for Innovators

Ideas can come from anywhere and CIOs must seek them out by forming alliances, through staff portals, or from innovation teams.

CIOs need also remember that for every upside that a new idea brings, there’s also a downside. An evaluation and testing process allows IT to understand an innovation’s risk. Risk analysis must be part of any innovation methodology. Finally, create a process that works for your organization and make sure you’re a big part of it.

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