Posted by  Charlie Clark  Published on  10 Dec 2013
  • Data Strategy

“Innovation is anything, but business as usual,” is as true a sentiment if ever there was one.

With Neelie Kroes banging the gong for investment in growth and new ideas, innovation has once again come under the spotlight, and many businesses will be questioning just what they can do to get ahead of their competitors.

In fact, many will be overwhelmed with just where to start: the concept of innovation is a wonderful thing, but what does it mean in reality, and in fact, is an innovative idea just the start of the process?

Here, I offer some advice and tips to help businesses successfully innovate, and realize that innovation is just the start:

1. Solid as a rock

Perhaps the most important piece of advice I can give is that as a business, you shouldn’t just look at the possibilities for future innovation and growth, but put the business as it stands today under a microscope to shore up processes and potential revenue leakages. Otherwise, any activity that you do to foster innovation could all be for nothing. After all, you’d expect Noah to check the ark for leakages before he went collecting the animals two-by-two.

Recommendation: Look at the areas where you might be experiencing the most revenue leakage. Once you’ve discovered the ‘what’ you can find the ‘why’ and put the relevant infrastructure and processes in place to ensure that these gaps are plugged – and data plays a key part in locating these issues. You should then find, within a relatively short timespan, that your bottom line is improving, and that there are more funds to invest in innovation.

2. Transformation

While everyone has data, it’s what you do with it that counts – and it can be the driving force in innovation – if treated in the correct manner. You need to be able to transform raw data from your organization and beyond into information, and ultimately intelligence, and it’s this intelligence that will drive innovation moving forwards. According to the Corporate Executive Board, fewer than 44%of employees know where to find the information they need for their day-to-day work – a startling figure showing the problems that workers face in finding, let alone disseminating its data.

Recommendation: The new innovative company makes the most of its data – you should be aware of the data that you already have within the business, and what would be useful to help you make decisions moving forwards (whether it be additional market data, or benchmarking data), and agree on a strategy for analysis, and how this information can be disseminated throughout your business. All the information in the world won’t be of use if it isn’t used in a strategic and intelligent manner. There are a number of tools out there that can help locate and process this information, and provide overviews quickly and intelligently, to ensure that any new business direction or innovation is no more of a risk than it has to be.

3. Collaboration in the enterprise

True innovation comes from collaboration – the adage “two heads are better than one” continues to ring true today, perhaps more than ever before. Once your business has data in an intelligent and actionable format, the next step is to think about how it can be shared across the enterprise to maximize insight from relevant stakeholders. There could be a key piece of insight from the finance department on a new procurement innovation that the procurement department might not otherwise be aware of, and thus have a negative impact on the success of this new innovation.

Recommendation: Ensure that there is visibility of the extracted data across the enterprise, so that anyone with relevant insight can feed back, and share their own knowledge. This will add an extra layer of intelligence for already enriched data, and ensure that only the minimal risk is taken with each new innovation.

Remember, data is a wonderful thing – well it can be, if it’s treated correctly, and used in the right way. Nowadays, there is no excuse not to make the most of the data that you have at your fingertips as part of your day-to-day business, and it will provide a good platform for future growth, and ensure that future innovation can be as successful as possible.