Is Your Path to Innovation Distorted by IT?

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Originally published by James on LinkedIn.

I envy the business that is so innovative that market share, profitability and culture are firmly resolved. For the rest of us, we’re all looking for an edge over our competition. When we think of innovation we look around and we see breakthrough technology-based products and services and we dream of seeing our business ideas carried through the technology age with the same level of simplicity, class and usefulness.

Naturally the first place we tend to look is to the experts in and around our business to help develop our ideas or form new ones. Trusted advisors come in all forms. One of those advisors might be an IT consultant or IT manager.

But are you finding answers? Have you broken through? If you have then you may have already moved on to the next article – if you haven’t then I invite you to read on.

Looking for Answers

Is your IT an innovation hub? Or is it a cost centre? Many look for innovation with a central focus on IT – why? Because IT supposedly holds the key to innovation.. after all.. it’s “IT”. It’s in the centre of everything.

That approach isn’t working. When Uber looks to launch a new service it’s doubtful the first stop is the IT department. When Apple designs a slimmer, sleeker watch or phone it’s highly unlikely the concept is brought to life while surrounded by servers and wires.

The reality is that the current form of technology and the people managing that technology is very traditional and designed to keep the lights on for the old ways you did business – it’s not innovative and you’ll rarely find the answers in there.

 The reality is that the current form of technology and the people managing that technology is very traditional and designed to keep the lights on for the old ways you did business – it’s not innovative and you’ll rarely find the answers in there.

New technology on the other hand is flexible and frees you from old thinking. Thinking that can be redirected toward innovation.

Old IT is a cost centre and there are new ways

Unpopular amongst my peers is the concept that IT costs can and should be reduced. Sure, there is a baseline cost of IT that we all have to accept – computers, internet, certain types of software and certain expertise within your IT department or IT consultant are all examples of necessities. But the core of IT – the cost centre – is changing rapidly and it’s in your best interests to shift this cost centre to new technology and new innovation.

Costs of IT are measurable – innovation on the other hand is immeasurable.

Traditional IT is pretty measurable – in fact you can go online and price compare most things, say the cost of new computer hardware, the difference between competing VOIP providers or the price of a new printer. Don’t get me wrong, finding the best price on IT isn’t innovation and finding the cheapest is generally not a great idea either, but for businesses who want to innovate it’s a line item that should be reduced and should be replaced with investment in new technology.

Costs of IT are measurable – innovation on the other hand is immeasurable.

Many businesses have moved to the cloud but soon realised this in and of itself wasn’t innovative – it’s what you do with new technology which is often cloud based and has a myriad of features that will lead to better efficiency and enable growth.

For example, many businesses are moving to Office 365 – an incredibly diverse and flexible business platform, only to find that IT could only convert them to the new software and is unable to help you leverage the other potential features that Office 365 offers. The business is left wondering why the move ever took place.

A starting point.

I worked with a law firm today who have 250 people and are anchored in old technology. They can’t throw it away and start again because the cost will outweigh the immediate benefits – I get that.

But a systematic approach to re-engineering IT will in fact open the gateway to better opportunities for that firm and that’s the path I’m confident they will take.

How will a business innovate when it’s free of legacy IT like servers, old software and ageing hardware?

Here’s a mini guide:

  • Focus on the tools not the platform behind it – new software is cloud based and interchangeable – there is no silver bullet technology and the benefit today is if one tool doesn’t suit, try a different one until you get the mix right. The cloud and other innovations has made this an affordable and sensible approach
  • Redeploy traditional IT costs in to modern technology or R+D – while you’re saving cost on traditional IT the focus shifts from maintaining computer systems to creating and developing new ideas and using more useful tools – just don’t fall in to the trap of saving IT cost and then failing to take advantage of your freed up capital. Kodak was very profitable before they failed to reinvest in digital..
  • Be well advised – perhaps you have an innovative IT partner, that’s great news. So long as the discussion isn’t solely about servers, cloud and networks and is more about business concepts, productivity and innovation then you’re on the right track

There’s an Apple and an Uber inside all of us. Don’t let IT distort your vision.

James is the Managing Director of I Know IT, a company founded on the basis that your IT should simply work. Once IT is working the goal is to use it to your competitive advantage.

1800 456 694

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