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Get a Handle on Your Digital Toolbox

By on December 15th, 2020

edgeTI digital toolbox

Avoiding the 4 Inhibitors to Instantaneous Innovation (Part 1)

Novel virus COVID-19 forced many to transform digitally at a record pace. Yet study after study indicates that many organizations still struggle to get ideas to production to realize their projected value as new growth and more efficient processes and improve customer expectations of speed, transparency, and privacy. So are there keys to digital transformation? What are others doing that lead to more success? Let’s orient ourselves beyond the countless theories and focus on the doing.

Regardless of your generation, you likely had some toys along the way that developed your creative skills. If you are like me, these progressed to more sophisticated tools (toys). As you got older, you attempted new hobbies and interests. Firstly, it began as Lincoln Logs, Duplo, Tinker Toys, Lego, Erector Sets, Kinex, and many others. After that, it progressed to Lego robotics, Heathkit, Chemistry sets, or even Battle Bots. Similarly, what began as terraforming a planet (SimEarth), developing a Civilization, or planning SimCity has expanded to engage younger audiences to create Minecraft’s rich, expansive worlds. So what is our Minecraft for business ideas and questions? What some analysts have coined as the Digital Toolbox of Innovation Operations, does this exist?

When we think of a toolbox or workbench, they can be orderly or be a hot mess. For instance, in a business context, the same is true of the software and tool inventories within our organizations. In large organizations, it is more likely that you’ll see more than a single toolbox. Similarly, like you would expect on any construction job site where tradespeople are building or remodeling; electricians, plumbers, framers, finish carpenters, alarm, fire, HVAC, etc… We have all heard “the right tool for the right job.” How many tools claim to be part of the digital ecosystem?

The Great Multitude of Innovation

In the last decade, the smartphone’s appearance, tremendous connectivity speeds, social apps and stores, and cloud-based computing created new watermarks for the speed of change and diversity of solutions. Once coined, the Nexus of Forces by Gartner and SMAC by Forrester software catalogs in companies expanded with many of these occurring as SaaS subscriptions. Try/buy and freemium models, fueled by the reviewer’s ability to click yes, created lots of mini-instances of duplicative and often isolated functionality.

Matt Turck's massive list and map of tools

AI and IoT are happening now. Low-code and composable infrastructure is changing how we build. Citizen-coder and data scientists’ roles are bantered about. Data, sensors, analytics, and AI literacy are critical to meet rising demand. Nothing paints the picture of diversity like Matt Turck’s famous monster map of data and analytics firms and observations, recently updated for 2020. While the FirstMark team admits that this list is not exhaustive, it clearly points out that the combinations of applications, data, and things make every organization unique.

This diversity, having given us so many choices, has enabled us to tackle nearly every part of operations. This tremendous flexibility has led to something that the leaders in their respective industries and world governments have embraced in the form of new kinds of research and development with clear funding.

The Advent of the Innovation Center of Excellence

Fueled by a major shift in the way we develop and test software, like DevOps and Agile, many organizations have applied Design Thinking. They use it to challenge existing processes, business models, and safe software bets in search of efficiency and new digital engagement models. More and more organizations are creating ongoing Innovation Labs to transform the way they innovate and the brand experiences they create for their customers.

A few weeks back, Peter Skyttegaard of Gartner held a webcast on “The Gartner Framework to Jump Start Innovation.” At the very beginning, Peter defines Innovation Management as a business discipline that aims to drive a repeatable, sustainable innovation process or culture within an organization. So if an innovation lab is in your future, what and where are the barriers to progress?

Avoiding Four Inhibitors to Instantaneous Innovation

Having worked on multiple client projects, immense programs, and defined digital platforms, four things rise to the top as the progress killers: Security Pitfalls, Infrastructure Islands, Boiling the Perfect Ocean, and Funding Mazes. Forrester echoes these sentiments in their latest BLOG about being pragmatic.

Security Pitfalls

  • Avoid working with any security or sensitive information.
  • Use abstract placeholders (make a note that you may need to secure or obscure sensitive info).
  • Assume the worst that there is no perimeter.
  • Engage in security early. Consider giving the security team an adjacent challenge (how would you secure and protect this data).

Infrastructure Islands

  • Establish a playground that lets you add external services but lets you provide extreme flexibility in server models.
  • Start with some level of application performance monitoring to understand application behaviors and bottlenecks early on.
  • When it’s working, consider unleashing Chaos Monkey created by Netflix to break things to see how your solution responds to change and failure.

Boiling the Perfect Ocean

  • Break-up concepts into design spikes leading with client experience and business value rather than building yet another epic system.
  • Target the best benefit or most significant pain that moves a clearly defined metric that will accelerate return.
  • Everything else you could do goes in the backlog bucket or Kanban, where stakeholders can prioritize it.

Procurement Mazes

  • Avoid trying to get everything that you need through procurement.
  • Instead of picking many esoteric tools, use generic functions that give you negotiating power as you move to production.
  • I’ve seen excellent ideas die in the halls of investment committees.
  • Use test versions, open-source, and avoid lock-in with one exception, which I will discuss next week.

Download our 4 Inhibitor infographic, to always have in mind what pitfalls to avoid on your way to innovation.

Don’t miss next week’s “4 Things You’ll Need in Your Digital Innovation Lab” – Subscribe