Mastering the equation of Innovation and Operation is one of the most difficult challenges that IT has faced for years. However, their response to the pandemic has unveiled new skills and strategies that can enable them to deal with this age-old IT conundrum.
Striking the right balance between Innovation and Operation is one of the biggest challenges that enterprises face today. In fact, a staggering 76% of IT leaders agree that balancing business innovation with operational excellence is challenging, according to the 2021 State of the CIO survey.
As per Gal Oron, Co-Founder and CEO, Zoomin, “The question of how to balance expansion, innovation, and effective operations management has been an important one for us, particularly as we’ve seen a 300% increase in the answers we’re serving to customers.”
The pandemic has pushed businesses to their breaking point. As a result of being compelled to find better ways to keep their business afloat, organizations have developed better solutions and strategies that can finally be used to address the age-old IT conundrum.
six strategies for IT leaders to find the right balance between Innovation and operation:
Avoid replacing legacy tools and systems on a regular basis
Though enhancing a particular product or service sounds good, doing it on a frequent basis can create many problems for enterprises and its customers. Since Innovation means a change in the way solutions perform, it is essential that enterprises only integrate new features that will have a minimal but positive impact on the operations.
“Innovation requires change. But change management can be incredibly painful and disruptive for organizations,” says Gal Oron. He further adds, “The key is to avoid the trap of constantly replacing legacy tools and systems. Companies should instead prioritize solutions that improve outcomes for customers while fitting into existing workflows. This keeps operations moving along efficiently by streamlining the workflows of different teams while allowing them to work in a way that gets results.”
Understanding the mission of the organization
Oftentimes when enterprises fail to achieve their business goals, it is due to a lack of necessary tools and equipment or not having an effective leadership strategy in place. But, the root of the problem is that IT teams, as well as other departments within the organization, do not having a thorough understanding of the organization’s mission and its goals. Hence, it is critical that CIOs foster an environment where the mission and the business objectives are incorporated into everything their teams do.
As Justin Donato, VP of Information Technology, Nintex puts it,
“The most effective way for a CIO to achieve a balance between technology innovation, business operations and revenue growth is to establish and maintain a comprehensive understanding of the organization’s mission, and how individual departments are working together to achieve this”.
“IT’s ability to achieve its full potential in delivering business value is inherently linked to its appreciation and understanding of why their organization is in business, and what success looks like at the macro level. The CIO and their leadership team play a critical role in cascading this knowledge through their teams and championing the cause of relating team-level objectives to corporate goals,” he adds.
Taking better internal programs
“Keeping the balance between driving cost savings vs. supporting innovation is an age-old problem and a classic trade-off between optimizing for short- vs. long-term. However, last year proved that these seemingly conflicting priorities go hand-in-hand with the almost overnight adoption of enabling technologies that enhanced team performance and growth initiatives,” says Linda Kahangi, CIOO, Nomadix.
She added that CIOs should prioritize innovative approaches that not only satisfy the short-term needs of the customers but also their future ones. “CIOs need to step back and invest in thoughtful internal programs that are critical for customer relationships, growth and stronger valuations over time. While it’s easy to get stuck focusing on hitting short-term numbers, shifting the mindset and prioritizing Innovation for what customers need in the future will ensure a competitive advantage and a more engaged team along the way.”
Effective collaboration and communication between IT and business leaders
Balancing innovation and operation requires CIOs to step up and collaborate with their counterparts. They should help the board and stakeholders understand the value of the new IT initiatives and how they can achieve their goals.
“This is not an easy undertaking it must be driven by a CIO that is dedicated to building partnerships with business units, understanding their challenges and risks, and contributing to their success,” says Justin Donato. “By working with business leaders and speaking to them in their language, the role of a CIO can transform into one that is positioned to find a balance between an ever-growing number of competing priorities including security, profitability, and budget constraints.
Aligning all elements of IT with the organization’s mission empowers a CIO to make informed decisions at a strategic level. A CIO in this position can then work with their stakeholders to determining what level of technology innovation and risk matches the organizational profile, and how to maximize revenue growth through secure and efficient business operations.”
Integrating more automation technologies
The rapid acceleration of digital transformation initiatives in recent months has shown that IT has the power to make its impact across all the verticals of an organization. “We are at the helm of a digital transformation driven by customer experience, simplicity, standardization, flexibility, and cost, which is a lot to balance,” says Shivkumar Gopalan, CIO, Unit4.
He adds, “Knowing there are always new standards to meet and costs to lower, we now see IT teams become an integral part of the business and are expected to help deliver value across operations.” Hence, CIOs should devise strategies and integrate technologies that further strengthen their hold on the enterprise, enabling them to deliver significant value to the organization. “To drive growth, CIOs and IT teams should focus on furthering automation, moving towards the cloud, and the standardization and simplification of business processes by using IT tooling. Replacing legacy tools and processes with cloud-based technology can enable businesses to eliminate disruptions and create standard data models that, in turn, make way for innovative processes,” explains Shivakumar Gopalan.
Do not innovate for the sake of it
The continuously evolving enterprise landscape has been transformational in enabling CIOs to optimize their company operations. However, this rapid transformation made it difficult for CIOs to strike a balance between operations and innovation. Therefore, it is critical that they don’t use innovative technologies just for the sake of it.
“Even a company that delivers best-of-breed solutions can find its business operations suffering if it fails to move at the speed of digital transformation and anticipate changing customer preferences. This in mind, it’s vital for CIOs to force themselves to see the big picture and stay connected to the modern customer in order to identify the operational tools that will contribute to moving a company forward in a time when technology and customer preferences are in a constant state of change. It’s critical for CIOs to recognize it is not a choice between Innovation and operations, but rather an understanding of how to balance the two,” says AJ Sunder, CIO RFPIO.