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Does Your Company Have a Complete Innovation Framework?
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By Richard Amos
Organizations are feeling the pressure to become innovative and demonstrate to stakeholders that the organization will endure beyond the current product life cycles. Firms must consistently adapt and pursue new innovations and value creation as no single product will exist in perpetuity. This pattern has been repeated consistently throughout time and can easily be validated by looking at the list of firms being added and removed from major investment indexes such as the Dow Jones Industrial and the S&P 500.
At HPE, we’ve been helping our customers on their digital transformation journeys using our products and services and we frequently hear their desire to improve innovation. To enable this key digital ambition, one of the core capability domains of the Edge-to-cloud adoption framework is innovation. Outlined below are six specific areas of our comprehensive innovation capability domain and how they may fit into an organization’s approach to innovation.
Companies must focus on culture and develop a sustainable innovation program, including employee education, organizational processes improvement, leadership commitment, and use of metrics to measure progress. Ultimately, there needs to be an ideation pipeline and the capabilities to validate the concept.
Ideation uses both internal and external discovery of ideas to drive innovation within a company. Common ideation practices range from running hack-a-thons to having systematic selection and evaluation programs across the enterprise. Firms can leverage internal processes or defined programs to build innovation challenges. HPE works with clients in the ideation process. The “Advance Moment” helps identify the information and technology underpinning platform requirements. The idea that separates you from your competition may be waiting in the minds of your current employees. The employees will be interested in finding easier ways to work, more efficient methods of engaging customers, solutions that improve outcomes, and services/products that move the world to a sustainable and healthy future.
Innovation enablement value chain
The innovation enablement value chain is a concept that incorporates the entire modern development lifecycle to enable hypothesis testing of innovative ideas. When IT discusses digital transformation, concepts are not always stitched together in a way that explains how they work in concert. Many firms are incorporating design thinking, SAFe, DevOps, and cloud-native architectures. In one of the most popular books on innovation, The Lean Startup, Eric Ries teaches us the benefits of defining a hypothesis, building an MVP and rapidly learning, with the goal of a “pivot or preserve” decision after hypothesis testing. Starting initiatives with the customer empathetic approach of design thinking allows the narrowing of the hypothesis prior to developing your minimal viable product (MVP). Implementing SAFe allows organizations to gain the benefits of the Agile Manifesto at an enterprise level. Leveraging cloud automation allows a quick engagement of technical solutions that would otherwise be cost prohibitive. Combining empathetic design, hypothesis validation, SAFe, and cloud automation, truly enables organizations to innovate. Be sure and stitch together how these work together to enable new outcomes.
Culture of continuous improvement
The cultural component is crucial for removing organizational inertia that may resist change and prevent innovation over the long term. An innovative organization cultivates a culture of continuous improvement across all types of innovation. For example, a culture of continuous improvement necessitates executive buy-in to a well-defined innovation vision and strategy. A formalized continuous improvement program which uses KPIs to track progress against organizational goals is also core to this domain. Further, programs which encourage radical innovation and frame IT as an innovation partner to the organization are indicators of maturity in this domain. The above characteristics foster an environment of trust in which employees feel empowered to innovate.
People and structure
Innovation is inherently a human activity and people are at the center of any organization’s innovation efforts. It is vital for an organization to establish a track record of enabling employees to innovate. Structure is needed to systematically grow the innovation machine and maintain new levels of innovation. Many modern-day business leaders discuss innovation concepts publicly, but comparatively few enact the necessary structural accommodations to foster it throughout the organization and reap meaningful rewards. This structure includes capabilities such as funding, innovation KPIs, and integration of innovation into the organization. As with many strategic initiatives, innovation programs struggle to maintain support and are constantly compared to urgent quarterly results and short-term operational needs. Without proper structure and support, the organization will frequently find resources torn between their “day job” and innovation.
The entrepreneurial ecosystem is a broader startup community including start-ups, incubators, and accelerators and it is expanding at an enormous pace. There are many ways in which organizations can engage the start-up community. At the local level, organizations can be actively involved and participate in the role of mentor, judge, and investor. They can also sponsor local start-up forums, meet-ups, events and roundtables. Start-ups are hungry for hypothesis testing, validation, insights, and capital, and organizations should be hungry for innovative approaches, opportunities, and ideas. While engaging in the entrepreneurial ecosystem is not required to be innovative, it is a common approach for improving opportunities.
Hybrid cloud related services
An organization must be constantly vigilant regarding new innovative practices to enable its digital ambitions. These capabilities consistently evolve based on current technology trends and the maturity of the organization on an innovation spectrum. For example, instead of measuring whether an organization has a selection process for hybrid cloud technologies, the hybrid cloud related services domain seeks to determine whether the organization is correctly applying a technology based on an outlined selection process. Consistently working with key partners and providers allows organizations to stay abreast of innovative solutions that could solve current challenges.
Innovation often starts as an aspiration to be competitive, gain market share, or find new markets. Often, a transformation’s most difficult challenge is culture and people, and the innovation capability is not different. IT’s perception as an innovation partner starts by enabling innovative ideas to be tested at speed and scale. To build a sustainable program, leaders must create a culture, dedicate resources, formalize the organization, and measure impacts. Innovation has always been at the core of HPE and continues to strengthen as it transforms its offerings to everything as a service, with edge-to-cloud solutions. For example, HPE is continuously focused on gaining insights across its client base and employee base through HPE Labs, numerous ideation challenges across HPE, and business unit ideation and hack-a-thons. These efforts have a customer-centric focus looking to provide new business outcomes. Innovation does not just occur because a leader declares that the firm is innovative, nor does it happen when core offerings are consistently prioritized ahead of innovative ideas. Burying an idea that competes with a firm’s core business likely has the same outcome as providing it to the competition. An appropriate culture needs to prevent that.
 DevOps Handbook, Gene Kim, Jez Humble
 The Lean Startup, Eric Ries
 Design Thinking, Thomas Lockwood
 Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), www.scaledagileframework.com
Richard is a Global Transformation Strategist with over 20 years of experience and success in transformational strategy development as a technology leader. He is experienced in building vision and leading change that enables business outcomes. Prior to joining HPE, Richard led technology for a global investment management firm.