In a previous post, we discussed the convergence of IT and OT (operational technology) and the necessity for companies to prepare for this transformation. In our work with clients, however, it’s clear that most organizations have no formal approach for introducing IT into OT environments.
This blog discusses how firms can introduce innovation for IT/OT success.
Clients feel challenged to become the Amazon or Apple of their industry. That’s a tall task. And the majority of companies are unprepared to transform overnight. Let’s put things in perspective: Amazon and Apple are among the largest companies in the world, with massive revenue and profit streams to fund innovation activities. Last year, Apple invested roughly $10 billion in research and development (R&D) and Amazon almost $23 billion. It’s unlikely you’re in that ballpark – or even the same league. However, please don’t stop reading now and walk away depressed. Remember: R&D investment dollars don’t necessarily directly correlate with innovation success, and there are many things you can do today – small successes – that will yield significant results for your business.
Let’s talk about ways to introduce innovation approaches for your organization.
What is Innovation?
What does ‘innovation’ mean? There are many definitions of innovation, but there are two I prefer when working with clients:
- Innovation is something new that creates value
- Innovation can be both a process and an outcome
I like the first description because it’s simple. It’s not about technology, it’s not about massive culture change; it’s simply about inventing something new that creates value for your business. And there are probably many places in your organization that would benefit from a new thing. Now, in an IT/OT world, innovation will likely involve technology – but it’s important to avoid focusing solely on the technology; instead, focus on how the intersection of the technology and operations can create business value.
I like the second description because it emphasizes that while outcomes are essential, establishing a process for innovation is critical to get to the outcomes. This is especially relevant for operational technology environments. Most companies lack processes that allow them to explore how emerging technologies can be introduced in an iterative approach to test and trial concepts before making significant investments in dollars, time, and resources.
Now that we’ve established a simple concept for understanding innovation, here are some critical organizational success factors to start you on your path.
Critical Success Factors – Foundational Principles for Innovation
I mentioned that innovation doesn’t have to be about massive culture change, but companies must shift their culture over time to succeed as innovators. This change won’t happen overnight, but there are foundational principles you need to adopt to shift the mindset – particularly for companies that operate under legacy IT approaches.
- Ideation & iteration: Continuous research of emerging technology for ideation of potential new solutions and future releases
- Experimentation: Rapid testing and prototyping of new technology solutions
- A “fail fast/green light” mindset: Minimize time from failed experimentation and accelerate promising solutions
- Sandbox/lab environments: Flexibility from existing organizational processes to create a technical environment for experimentation
- Co-innovation: Creativity toward alternative approaches for solution creation with 3rd parties such as vendors, research organizations, or other enterprises
- Collaboration & culture: Involving other parts of the business to ideate, remove bottlenecks to trialing and implementing new solutions, and create a culture of innovation
Innovation is a big concept and an equally big undertaking, especially in an IT/OT-converged world, where emerging technology will collide with existing operational processes and physical industrial infrastructure.
Establishing foundational principles for innovation is critical. However, it’s only a start. Innovation doesn’t just happen. Expecting innovations to sprout organically is like playing the lottery – you throw in a few bucks, forget about it, and hope for a miracle to happen. To foster an environment in which good ideas can become actual products or solutions requires commitment and discipline.
Have questions about Venado Technologies, innovation, IT/OT, or creating a digital evolution in your company? Contact us – we're always eager to connect with the business community!