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Innovation: How can You make it Happen

A recent innovation survey from cloud company Oracle shows that less than 20 percent of innovation-focused projects in Asia are coming to life. This is despite the fact that respondents recognise a clear link between growth and innovation. Why do most of them have few proactive innovation plans for the next three years?





According to reports like the annual Bloomberg Innovation Index1, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, and China are among the top 20 most innovative economies. Yet, even as Asian companies are upping their efforts in innovation, there seems to be a growing sense of an impending innovation winter as recent economic reports show a tightening of Eastern economies in the first few months of the year

However economic factors aside, Oracle's innovation survey suggests that there could be other reasons that get in the way of innovation: a lack of focus and leadership, poor processes and not having the right technology in place. This broad range of reasons confirms what most people already know - successful innovation is hard.




BARRIERS TO INNOVATION

Insufficient commitment from leadership, coupled with a lack of clear ownership and vision, are key barriers to successful innovations. Additionally, over-commitment of resources, particularly in high-growth companies, could also prevent innovation initiatives from being brought to life. In the survey conducted, 41 percent of high growth companies admitted to being overwhelmed by too many projects and having an excess of parallel initiatives.

The lack of proper process is another factor cited by over a quarter of those surveyed as hampering innovation efforts. This problem can typically be traced to organisation structures where innovation teams are separated from core business teams. When a company's innovation team acts as a standalone silo, the result is that it ends up neither understanding nor investing sufficient effort and time to learn about the actual reality of the company's operations. Likewise, because operations are so removed from the innovation team, innovation becomes a secondary priority for the company.

Technology, or more specifically - data, also presents a unique set of challenges to the innovation process. In today's data-driven world, the growing volume of data is swiftly outstripping human capability to keep up. Overwhelmed by the data deluge, many companies fail to make use of the rich data locked in multiple legacy systems and managed by different departments. To make matters worse, Chief Information Officers put all their focus on keeping the business going. As a result, little attention and resources are allocated to free up data - eventually causing possible innovations to fall by the wayside and transformation initiatives to be pushed down the priority list.

ENABLERS OF INNOVATION

However, all is not lost for innovations. Data, if properly harnessed, can give companies insights into new products and business models. And with emerging technologies like machine learning, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and blockchain, businesses now have access to powerful tools that can both drive transformation initiatives and streamline day-to-day operations to support innovation projects. Through a combination of AI and automation, new autonomous data management and visualisation solutions are bringing new and powerful ways of harnessing and leveraging the growing data tsunami to yield key insights, giving organisations a competitive advantage. Notably, these self-driving, self-securing and self-repairing autonomous solutions also free up time and resources to enable a stronger focus on innovation.

The opportunity to leverage new emerging data-driven technologies doesn't stop there. Another technology - blockchain - responds to the need for managing and securing data in a connected ecosystem to create competitive advantages. By providing a immutable data trail of interactions and transactions in a distributed ledger that can be made instantly available to verified participants, blockchain holds innovative possibilities in areas like fintech and supply chain management - with the potential to impact industries as wide-ranging as diamonds, manufacturing and transportation.

KEYS TO UNLOCKING A VIRTUOUS INNOVATION CYCLE

It is evident that successful innovation can happen. As opposed to standalone silos, "blended teams" across various lines of business must become the new normal. Through integrating innovation and operations into a single growth engine and adopting an agile and disciplined design thinking approach, it becomes possible to frame, ideate and build a minimum viable product or service within months.

In addition, emerging technologies should be tapped on strategically. The cloud era has afforded new technologies to not only be embraced in bite-sized, modular chunks, but also turned on and off at will - enabling companies to stay agile. Even in times of economic uncertainty, companies can drive innovation effectiveness and cost efficiency by experimenting, trying out and learning new things fast.

Today's innovators need to learn fast and fail faster to succeed in the modern innovation business. And maybe then, innovation and operations teams can both create a virtuous circle and bring tomorrow's solutions to reality today.

1 These are the World's Most Innovative Countries, Bloomberg, 2019

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