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Part 3 – The Innovation Process at Unique World – Creating a Culture of Innovation at Unique World

Creating and encouraging an environment where people feel that new ideas are welcome and wanted is crucial to Unique World’s innovation process. We know that Innovation thrives in a culture that is not afraid of taking risks, promotes experimentation and rewards off the wall thinking.

In order to have innovation accepted throughout Unique World we have tried to encourage everyone to take part in it. We also acknowledge that it needs to be a continual process that is itself tweaked and reviewed at regular intervals.

At Unique World we have not limited the innovation process to only be looking at opportunities that we can take to market. But the process is also free to drive improvements in core business processes or to suggest way to make us do something differently (and hopefully better). A great resource I stumbled across recently was the innovation check list written by Joanne Pimlott, Founding Director of the Education Centre for Innovation and Commercialisation and Academic Director of the Master of Entrepreneurship at The University of Adelaide. Innovation checklist: making innovation affordable and do-able

  • Do you take time to identify training needs for current and future needs?
  • What publications, people, events and so on do you need to access?
  • What incentives will you provide for people to undertake training to maintain and update their knowledge and skills?
  • Are ideas and suggestions actively sought by management? What happens to those ideas and suggestions? (Follow up is essential)
  • What motivates your people to be creative, experimental (where appropriate) and innovative in their thinking?
  • Do you understand what motivates each individual in your business? (What assumptions do you make in this area?)
  • Is innovation likely to occur because of or in spite of your business culture, structure and management style?
  • How readily do people in your workplace accept change?
  • Does your business have a risk management strategy?

Joanne Pimlott

It is certainly my view that virtually any SME should be able to follow Joanne’s simple checklist and start to implement simple and affordable innovation programs quite quickly. Certainly the Unique World experence so far is that it can really change the way you think and run your business.

Part 2 – The innovation Process at Unique World – Innovation Leadership

Innovation requires strong leadership. If you do not want innovation to be haphazard, then you need to make the strategic decision to manage for innovation.

Managing for innovation requires strategic decisions about where to focus attention and time. While large businesses have the resources for formal strategic management, many small to medium business do not.

Even at Unique World, we have fallen into the trap of feeling we are too busy meeting the day-to-day challenges of operating the current core business to spend time developing and nourishing innovation. But we know that innovation is one of the corner stone’s of Unique World’s future and will have a profound impact on Unique World today and tomorrow.

In order for innovation to be effective it must be encouraged, innovation is often all about leading by example. Luckily Unique World’s CEO Eddie Geller has take an interest in day-to-day innovation activities since day one of starting Unique World, and the formalisation of an Innovation process is just another stage in the maturity of the business that he and Elon Aizenstros started over eight years ago.

In thinking about leadership in the innovation sphere I am often, draw to the writings of Peter Drucker ‘the expert’ in innovation processes and thinking in my view:

Drucker says in Innovation and Entrepreneurship (1993):

  •  An innovation, to be effective, has to be simple and it has to be focused. It should only do one thing, otherwise it can confuse your staff, customers and suppliers.
  •  Effective innovations start small. They are not grandiose. They try to do one specific thing.
  •  A successful innovation aims at market and business leadership. It does not aim necessarily at becoming eventually a ‘big business’; in fact, no one can foretell whether a given innovation will end up as a big business or modest achievement. But if an innovation does not aim at leadership from the beginning, it is unlikely to be innovative enough, and therefore unlikely to be capable of establishing itself.

The third and finial part of this entry along soon … 

The Innovation Process at Unique World – Part 1

Managing innovation at an SME like Unique World is really all about people management. People, not technology, are the source of the ideas that can become opportunities. People, not organisations, act on business concepts.

Our approach at Unique World is still in its formative stages, but in essence, it is about taking new ideas and allowing them to be reviewed and either approved, tweaked or rejected by a representative committee of our people.

Once the idea’s have passed thru the committee stage they are taken to the executive of our business who ultimately decides if the idea has a robust enough business case and alignment with our core business and strategy to merit real capital investment. Or if the idea should be put on hold pending further time, information or consideration.

Luckily, Unique World already has many of the attributes an SME needs in order to allow innovation to flourish:

  • An open culture that responds to staff, customers and suppliers; and
  • We know that Innovation requires creativity and creativity requires time.

Whilst we are still working out some of the logistics associated with taking a consulting based organisation (where time equals billing) to one where the appropriate levels of an individual’s ‘billable’ time is allocated to creativity. We are already seeing changes in behaviour of both management and staff in how they are able to create time for that creativity to occur.

Tim Mazzarol, Director of the Centre of Entrepreneurial Management and Innovation in Western Australia, advises: ‘Contemporary innovation management requires the active participation of all employees with adequate rewards and recognition of such behaviour. Management plays a key role in this process, motivating employees to seek innovative solutions and identifying opportunities for enhanced innovation via interactions with the customer. It is important for organisations to build innovative management systems able to assist with the facilitation of knowledge sharing and commercialisation’.

As Tim points out innovation is more than just the commercialisation of idea’s – it is a holistic management system, that is able to facilitate knowledge sharing, customer/ client and partner interactions as well as commercialisation. At Unique World, we are not quite at this level of maturity but I can see a day where we will be.

Part 2 in a few days time, got any comments or questions about our process – send em thru…

Focus on Innovation

Of late I’ve been getting a lot of question about my role at Unique World as Head of Innovation? Many customers, partners and even internal staff are rather confused by the title and don’t understand the purpose and effect of innovation on the marketplace or the Unique World business as a whole.So what is the purpose of a Head of Innovation in a smaller enterprise like Unique World, well our executive and board have identified innovation as one of the key paths to fuel geometric growth in our business. And have decided to use Innovation to drive change in our offering to our clients and the internal team (both within our consulting services and software products).

It’s my role to work with all parts of the internal business and our strategic partners and customers to generate and govern innovation. Beyond just the governance it’s also my role to build an innovation culture and as a direct result the wanting to do thing smarter through innovation.Russell Reynols and associates (who are regarded as leaders in this arena) define the skills needed for the role as such:

Innovative Thinking: This person is known as a visionary and can demonstrate that he or she has predicted and acted on consumer/customer/client trends, getting others to believe and follow. He or she is known as a creative thinker who is willing to challenge the status quo but also learns from the past. He or she uses fact-based analyses but is not paralyzed by too much data (or not enough). This person is known for taking a well-reasoned stand and is decisive in terms of moving forward on a proposal.

Strong Business Acumen: The innovation leader has developed new businesses, products or services with the bottom line in mind. He or she has a record of sound fiscal management and has strong analytical capabilities. He or she has a balanced approach to revenue generation, operating cost management and bottom-line delivery.

Strategic Marketing Acumen: This person has the ability to develop and implement a marketing plan, driving actions from a comprehensive understanding of customer and consumer needs, then providing concise direction to the organization to develop profitable solutions. Underpinning this is a record of systematic and analytical approaches toward situation analysis evaluation and the development of specific programs that maintain a perspective on long-term goals while attaining short-term objectives.

Deal/Alliance/Relationship Skills: This person has not been constrained by resource limitations and can economically determine “buy/rent” decisions. He or she has forged significant business partnerships through strategic alliances, joint ventures or other forms that are mutually beneficial. He or she has a strategic network that can be leveraged.

Global Perspective: The innovation leader has the ability to quickly envision or grasp ideas found in the global and local marketplace. Acting with a sense of urgency, this person demonstrates a predisposition toward action, while evaluating programs in a small market environment with low economic risk.

Communication Skills: Finally, he or she must be a keen listener, be perceived as open minded and have strong interpersonal skills so that the necessary alliances with internal and external groups can be forged and developed quickly. This person must be comfortable interacting both formally and informally with senior executives and communicating openly and equitably with peers and subordinates throughout the organization.

I know I have not yet developed all of these skills, but I am keen to develop them quickly so I can be effective as possible in the role. It certainly is very exciting.In my next post I’m going to let you in on what the innovation processes has been cooking up at Unique World and how we’ve started to innovate within our core business.

MOSS 2007 Governance

More and more businesses I speak with are  struggling with ways to successfully deploy all of the applications and business requirements that can be delivered in a MOSS platform without some structure and process.

To help you succeed Microsoft has recently published a specific Governance and Information Architecture page on TechNet to help organize these key materials.

  • Information architecture in SharePoint Server 2007 – Scott Case of Interknowlogy, in this case study describes the process by which a fictitious company plans, customizes and deploys an Office SharePoint Server 2007 installation in a large organization.
  • SharePoint Products and Technologies customization policy – Sean Livingston, then of MS IT, now the PM for upgrade in WSS for the next version (hint, hint).  He explains his thoughts on supportability of customizations in 3 levels of service, a plan that MS IT uses to manage it’s hosted offerings of SharePoint internally.
  • Sample governance plan – Mark Wagner, MCS lays out an easy to fill out enterprise governance plan, including defining governance roles and responsibilities, operations policies, training, and resources.
  • SharePoint Server 2007 governance checklist guide – this handy reference guide takes information from Robert Bogues article as well as information from Joel Oleson’s TechEd Governance talk and articles being published on this landing page in the coming weeks.  This is exactly the same as the Governance checklist given out at TechEd.
  • Logical architecture model: Corporate deployment – Brenda Carter of the Technical Documentation team for TechNet SharePoint IT Pro, lays out an easy to use, fresh take on “logical architectures” which goes into examples of construction of farms, SSPs, Web Applications, and Site Collections. 
  • Governance Workspace – This codeplex workspace on governance focuses on free tools and information sharing in the community.  Two tools, both from MS IT currently are available here.  The MS IT Site Delete capture, and the the IT Site Life cycle management.  Both designed to help save the IT Pro time and money.

Beyond these great documents from Microsoft we at Unique World are also putting together a Governance Toolkit that will cover:

  • The Managing and traking of business requirements for applications developed in MOSS 2007;
  • Development Standards and Code reuse processes in MOSS 2007;
  • Deployment and migration advice;
  • Operational issues eg. Monitoring, Backup and Restore;
  • Change Management; And
  • UAT and testing processes.

We would love to hear from you if you think the above list is missing anything or if you’d like to be a beta site for the program just get in contact with me via the links on this page.

Using Technology to challenge business models – what’s the tiping point?

New technologies often present an interesting choice around its application to existing and new business models.

Generally most buinesses I talk with see technology change as a driver to create more productivity and faster results in thier workforce, or as I define it:

“A more sophisticated/automated way of doing things that spares us the difficulty of a task and speeds up the process most of the time, only to present us with occasional bursts of extreme difficulty.”

The problem is that although the technology change can bring about much higher productivity when you have gotten up the learning curve, but it’s a much steeper learning curve. You can’t progress from simple tasks to hard tasks, if the technology has already captured all the simple tasks.

And hence the paradigm – we can as technologist can quickly introduce a new technology but at what point does it reach the tiping point where it is not only is those that have a great depth of understanding the technology are able to use it very effectively quickly, but that the general user population are able to use and leverage the technology.

It’s these questions that really interest me, as the gap is closing between those who spend a lot of time ‘catching up’ to the curve and those who are able to master and manage the applications quickly – where will we find the productivity advances and how will the applications keep pace with the end users needs, rather then the other way round? 

With this in mind it’s my view that if and application is not user centred and maps to thier individual way of doing things then it is unlikley to be well recieved by those that are able to quickly master it.

If the application is from an ‘old’ world and dictates the process and the ways it must be used, then it will be cast aside by those power users.

Some of the more traditional ECM and Records vendors seem to me to be very challenged by this concept – it will be interesting to see how they react – before it’s too late.