by Christopher Koch

10 Steps to Business Innovation

May 01, 20062 mins

1. Create a business/IT rotation program. Businesspeople often don’t know what to ask for from IT, and IT people often don’t know about business situations where IT could be applied. Move IT people into the business and vice versa and watch innovation bloom.

2. Move the focus from technology testing to simulation in a business context. Systems can work well and still fail because they don’t meet a business need. Test your systems in a business context—with real people, data and customers.

3. Build an innovation team. Innovation during the course of projects or daily business is accidental. Make it purposeful by devoting a small group to ongoing pilot projects and meetings with businesspeople.

4. Mesh IT development with product development. Product engineers are often segregated from IT, but with increasing levels of technology built into products, IT people could help speed the development process or even collaborate on new products.

5. Look outside the enterprise to partner with others on innovation. A swarm of small, global companies has moved in to take the place of big, internal corporate R&D departments.

6. Squeeze savings out of the infrastructure and dedicate the money to innovation. A program to constantly reduce fixed costs means there will be more money for innovation…without budget increases.

7. Use process improvement methodologies (CMM, ITIL and so on) to decrease innovation cycle time. Using CMM to standardize and improve software development processes means new projects can be completed more quickly.

8. Conduct interviews with all levels of the business. These discussions don’t have to be limited to specific projects. Interviewing businesspeople about what they do, what their problems are and what they’d like to do next is the first step toward innovation.

9. Create a joint IT and business capital spending plan. Many companies consider IT and business spending separately. It’s time to merge them. Linking the IT budget to plans to build a new factory could make it a better factory.

10. Design contractual requirements for innovation spending and planning with outside vendors. You devote a portion of your spending to innovation, so why not make business-specific innovation a part of your contracts with your vendors?

Sources: Forrester Research, Gartner, CIO reporting