Innovation and transformation have become ‘common place’ words and for many businesses, they’re interchangeable. Transforming a business invariably requires a level of innovation including embracing new technology and learning new skills. To survive in the digital economy, continual innovation and agility is required and one of the lasting legacies of coronavirus will be the way many businesses have embraced either digital technologies or online sales and product/service delivery to survive.
Given the urgency with which many of these measures were introduced, it’s opportune to consider whether these measures will have a lasting place in how the enterprise operates or whether they will be a ‘flash in the pan’ destined to the rubbish bin. While the process of innovation is important, it’s how those ideas morph into being a fundamental part of the operations of the organisation that drives success. With innovation, it’s easy to have a disconnect between the creation of the ideas and their assimilation into the day-to-day running of the organisation.
The digital transformation brought about by COVID-19 is no different. In an emergency, the focus, as it should be, is on ‘making things happen’. This often means that the usual rigour around monitoring the success of the newly implemented digitalisation, and developing relevant procedures and guidelines for the new assets is not apparent. How does an organisation assess and review the new measures that COVID-19 has brought about in the business and determine whether to keep these measures when the crisis subsides? By creating a framework to track and assess the innovation and transformation in the organisation.
In developing this framework, a number of issues need to be considered. This is not an exhaustive list as each organisation will have critical factors that aren’t mentioned here.
What is the measure? It seems like a simple question, however, the devils is in the details documenting the measure. The details allow people to understanding its purpose, what it delivers, who has championed the concept and which process or procedure (if any) it is replacing. This is the first step in creating an ongoing resource and documentation of innovation.
Who does the measure impact? Does the measure impact clients, staff, suppliers, or systems? If it does have impact internally, which people and/or departments will be affected?
How does the measure align with the values of the organisation? When businesses are fighting for survival it’s very easy and necessary to focus on the bottom line, without considering the organisation’s values. However, the sustainability of the organisation requires the values to be consistent and acted on, especially during a crisis. For example, if teamwork is an organisational value, it’s crucial to ensure teamwork is still a focus even if employees are working from home and physically at a distance.
Is the measure consistent with the strategy of the organisation? Alignment to strategy should be the primary focus of any transformation measure. If there is not a clear line of sight between the measure and the organisation’s strategic plan, the measure may not be worth undertaking.
What are the measures of success for the organisation and how are they assessed? Is the benefit financial, cultural, economic, sustainable, or an ESG (environment, social or governance) requirement? While many innovative measures have a financial impact, it’s also good to remember that the longevity of the organisation will depend upon its ability to innovate.
How is the measure being monitored and has it been effectively incorporated into current processes and procedures? Innovation is easy, implementation is hard. I think it’s part of our DNA to embrace ’shiny new things’, yet as we know, this excitement quickly fades. True innovation occurs when the measure becomes an integral part of the organisation. Its success rate can then be monitored and trends identified which will assist in planning for greater efficiencies.
What policy changes need to be made? Any change in procedures or processes will need to be documented
What about data? With everything digital, data is an essential component. It’s necessary to consider what data is required. Is it different to what is currently produced and will data collection changes be required? Are there any changes to the dataflow?
What are the additional skills required by the team to ensure the measure is efficient? Your people are important, and their skills will need to be continually updated.
Have the security and disaster recovery measures been upgraded to account for the new measure? With any change to process, it’s always wise to review security protocols by focusing on assets that need to be protected and potential threats to those assets.
What has been learned (both good and bad) from the measure? Feedback both good and bad is essential in bringing about improvements. Keeping a feedback log for every measure tried, even those that are unsuccessful, will provide the organisation with the ability to review and implement for the long term the most effective measure/s.
How will the organisation continue to create new ideas, concepts etc? Having a process forcapturing, testing and monitoring ideas provides the organisation with tangible evidence of their transformation journey.
These are some of the factors that will assist you to develop an innovation and transformation framework. With any framework, it’s only as good as what it delivers. The purpose of a framework is to provide structure and rigour around the organisation’s transformation process. This means success can be monitored and success is the most powerful driver of change. Digital transformation is an ongoing process that that needs to be embraced by everyone. The best way to determine whether an organisation is truly living and breathing innovation is through trend analysis.
Trends provide a snapshot of where the organisation has been and where it’s going. By having a formal structure around the transformation process, stakeholders will be able to see how the organisation is progressing, allocate future resources wisely, and make sure that the organisation is embracing change.
Like the old song by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, ‘you say tomato, I say tomato’.. Whether it is called innovation or transformation the important thing for an organisation is embracing the process of change.