by Byron Connolly

When it comes to innovation, size doesn’t matter

Nov 27, 2017

An organisation’s size has little impact on its ability to innovate regardless of whether it has a turnover of $50m or $500m. The likelihood of any organisation – apart from the smallest of companies – being innovative hovers around the 20 to 27 per cent mark.

These were key findings of recruiter Harvey Nash’s annual global tech survey, which publishes insights from interviews with 3251 IT execs in 81 countries worldwide.

The report also said a company that is 3 to 5 years old is almost twice as likely to be ‘very innovative’ as one that is more than 20 years old. This is no surprise, as many older organisations are grappling with keeping together ‘the spaghetti’ of legacy systems, organisational structures and processes, the survey said.

Bridget Gray, managing director at Harvey Nash told CIO Australia that it is often portrayed that smaller companies are more innovative than larger ones, but what this survey shows is that it’s actually an organisation’s age, rather than its size, that is the biggest predictor of innovation.

“Older companies tend to have more legacy. Not just in terms of systems, but also in terms of procedures, structures and culture,”Gray said. “Even for smaller companies it can be tremendously difficult to change these, and as digital disruption becomes more widespread the risk for companies ‘stuck in their legacy’ increases.

“Of course becoming an innovator is tricky. It’s even tricky to define. Our data shows that there is no blueprint for successful innovation, but two factors make a big difference. Firstly is company culture; and it really boils down to this question: do staff really, truly believe that their ideas can actually make a difference? The second factor is infrastructure; are the systems and processes of the company agile enough to evolve quickly and cost effectively?” Gray said.

The tech community sees the chief technology officer as the c-level role driving innovation and IT advancement (29 per cent). The was followed by the chief executive officer (19 per cent), the chief information officer (13 per cent) and ‘someone much more junior’ (11 per cent).

“For CIOs, who often see innovation as a big part of their agenda, this might come as worrying news,” the survey said. “But it is evident that survey respondents believe the technology-centric rather than the business-centric views, wins the day.

“As Henry Ford said: ‘If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.’ But maybe Henry Ford was only partially right. After all, for the centuries leading up to Ford’s innovation, faster horses were indeed what people wanted. And for the century that followed, faster, more efficient cars have been the focus. Progress is made from both revolution and evolution, involving CTOs and CIOs – and everything in between,” the survey said.

Meanwhile, 30 per cent of respondents agreed that within 10 years, a significant part of the job they currently perform would be automated. Nine per cent said their job was already affected and 61 per cent disagreed that their role was under threat by automation.

Interestingly, only 60 per cent of global CIOs, CTOs or VP’s of IT said they held a computer or technology-related degree.

While 53 per cent of all survey respondents studied a computer science or technology-related course to degree level, 47 per cent came in via another route. Women are less likely to have studying a tech degree (43 per cent) compared to 55 per cent of men.

“Much of this variance is explained by women being more heavily represented in role like business analysis, creative roles and support, where technical degrees are less common,” the survey said.