As businesses are becoming more and more digital, their dependence on IT is steadily increasing. The world’s needs and wants are also changing, requiring technological processes to fill the new voids being created. Contingencies like the current pandemic are only emphasizing the importance of Information Technology – which experts consider the “spine” of modern business success or any large-scale process that delivers solutions to human needs.
In this article, we take a look at some facets of IT in businesses currently, why innovation is lagging, new disruptive technologies on the rise, and what can be done to energize the IT workforce in a company.
When it comes to IT, innovation is imperative. However, sustained innovation is not easy to build. According to Deloitte’s recent global CIO survey, only 11 percent of the CIOs who participated assessed current innovation capabilities as excellent or leading. A staggering 25 percent said that such capabilities are nonexistent.
The inertia to continue traditional processes that leads to a resistance to change is an issue that has been plaguing technological development for decades now. Due to the risk associated with investments in unproven or disruptive technologies, business leaders avoid new technologies and prefer safer investments such as enhancements to existing ones. This defensive mindset, while ostensibly safe in the short run, defeats creativity and impedes speedy progress.
Without support, innovation in IT does not reach the end stage – implementation in business. Lack of leadership and resources often creates hiccups, that should ideally be just that – hiccups, which halt proceedings and fruitful outcomes.
These are some of the reasons why you may read about an awesome new technology in the news, but forget about it in the coming months when it ceases to become a real, scalable technology that people can access.
For the innovators, however, persistence is key. Disruptors of existing processes and functions are striving to find investors to launch and popularize their solutions.
Some exciting new disruptors
You have most likely experienced some sort of digital technology that is voice-enabled, which uses a person’s voice to get into action accordingly. You can ask Google to call someone for you, Alexa to play you a song, or Siri to recommend you a restaurant. But the newer disruptors are exciting, too. Robots that can be asked questions to provide information and support based on context, like Pepper, are on the rise. Pepper was trialed at the Munich airport and proved useful not only because she can act as an interactive kiosk, but also because she could provide you with stress relief with friendly banter and dance.
Videobots, seemingly the next step in the evolution of chatbots, are becoming more popular. They are basically recorded videos of someone personally providing all the information related to a specific scenario, but tweaked with AI to behave as an intuitive, interactive chat experience that is almost indistinguishable from a video call. While giants like Skype and Cisco are using videobots in entertainment contexts, disruptive startups like Expertrons are providing solutions to a variety of business operations like sales, customer service and product demos, besides implementing them in career guidance, edtech, college admissions and placements.
Intelligent tools in distribution and inventory, that provide useful services to businesses and customers by working on a database of vehicle registration records and other pertinent information, are slowly finding a place in the retail industry, with new players like Timken offering exciting solutions.
Proxy is a device that can be installed at work or home to streamline the environment through a person’s smartphone. Usable via an app, Proxy provides users with almost full control of their physical environment to make it more convenient and secure.
Fostering IT innovation
Thus, while it is easy to gauge the impact of how a new technology can make a certain aspect of life so much more easier, the transformation of an idea to a business success to a product or service that ultimately reaches the end user depends on how IT innovations are supported.
An existing business is an excellent nest to hatch the egg of innovation. Since a company has its own IT processes that work towards providing solutions and upgrading its working through creativity, the IT team in that company is a goldmine for new business opportunities as well.
The IT staff at a company might be competent, but if its leaders are afraid to push them into risky but potentially rewarding areas, they might end up underused. Nurturing the team so that they use IT knowledge in new and exciting ways can have enterprise-wide benefits.
Concepts like AI (Artificial Intelligence), VR (Virtual Reality), AR (Augmented Reality), ML (Machine Learning), big data, cloud services, etc., are all ideas that have matured through imagination, development and refinement. A leader should be able to identify where such new age concepts can be applied in the company’s operations.
IT’s reach extends to virtually all end-to-end business processes, the team should be able to define projects and business cases in all other departments. Any process, even ones that feel well-optimized, can be put under analysis via an “IT lens” for business strategy development. This “indulgence” may feel awkward, but an unstructured discussion that includes the IT team and the corresponding department can help align their perspectives and lead to useful ideas.
A timeline with this approach is important. Not to restrict, but to do the opposite. The IT team should be allowed to extend discussions as they feel fit because creative ideas should be the emphasis when it comes to results. And creative results don’t go well with deadlines. Moreover, with extended timelines comes the need for motivation from the top, so that the teams neither burnout nor slack.
As a stark contrast, hackathons can also help. When put under time-constraints and precise problem areas, sprint events like hackathons create competitive environments that act as the ideal platform for IT developers and engineers to display their creativity. Where creativity is abandoned for technical expertise, IT departments may subconsciously wear blinkers when faced with challenges. And they may miss quicker, cheaper, and simpler solutions as a result. Hackathons remind IT employees the magic that can flow from creativity.