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    Eliminating "Us And Them": Making IT and the Business One
    by Steven Romero

Enabling Innovation

I wrote a number of blog posts on the topic of innovation while I was at CA Technologies. I cited the call for the CIO and IT to play a greater role in driving business innovation and about the obstacles to IT’s ability to do so. In this post, I take a deeper dive into one of those obstacles and the solution to address it – a solution you may already have in place.

One of the greatest obstacles to innovation is the absence of a home for new ideas and the means to take those ideas and turn them into innovations. In a November 2010 paper from MIT Sloan’s Center for Information Systems Research titled: “Learning to Foster Breakthrough Innovation: The Evolution of EMC’s Innovation Conference,” Research Scientist George Westerman and Soule Solutions Principal Deborah Soule wrote the following:

“Many companies, hoping to be more innovative, start with opportunity generation. Mechanisms such as idea management systems, innovation contests, and innovation jams offer great promise. However, in many cases, momentum and excitement generated in the initial launch quickly diminish, leaving little to show for the effort. In other cases, the effort produces many good ideas, but those ideas fail to turn into working innovations.”

“Improving a company’s innovative capacity requires far more than just asking employees for good ideas. It requires executives to foster an environment that sustains momentum around the ideas and the idea process.”

In my “Quest for Agility and Innovation” presentation, I provide the following recommendations to IT organizations seeking to drive and influence business innovation:

  • Understand Innovation
  • Know the business
  • Eliminate culture-based risk and failure aversion
  • Foster and enable innovation

The last bullet is intended to address the challenge Westerman and Soule describe in their paper. Enterprises need to give employees the freedom to imagine, but then provide them with the structure to act. IT needs to show that governance and process do not have to be the enemies of innovation. IT and the business must work together to show that just enough governance and process can actually facilitate innovation, particularly if an enterprise is not inherently predisposed towards innovation. Though many IT organizations and the enterprises they serve may view this as a difficult conundrum, many would be relieved if not surprise to find they already have a process-driven innovation capability – if they have Project and Portfolio Management (PPM).

PPM is the decision engine that powers your innovation machine by:

  • Delivering the process to make decisions
  • Providing the breeding ground to foster new ideas
  • Reviewing new ideas
  • Sponsoring approved ideas (investments)
  • Shepherding ideas to their fruition and their value
  • Killing bad investments and passing on the learning

PPM can do all these things if it is appropriately designed, carefully and thoughtfully implemented, and properly managed. PPM can do this if it is the right fit, the right flavor, and not too much or too little governance. I described this “sound” PPM in a previous blog post discussing the need to ensure PPM asks and answers the four following questions:

  • Should we? Is the investment in the best interest of realizing our strategy?
  • Can we? Does our organization have the capacity and capability to undertake the investment?
  • Are we? Once approved, are we making the progress required to realize the projected value of the investment?
  • Did we? Once completed, did the investment deliver the expected value?

So if you want to enable innovation in your enterprise, take a look at your PPM processes and capability. Make sure they are up to the task of providing the decision engine that powers your innovation machine.

~ Steve 1-/09/2011 ~

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