Reg Reader Survey The introduction of new systems into an organization is essential. If we stay still, if we continue to rely on legacy systems, if we fail to innovate – well, we (or, in reality, the company) will die. As business guru Sir John Harvey-Jones once put it: “If you are doing things the same way as two years ago, you are almost certainly doing them wrong.”
But who should lead innovation in our companies? Who should be introducing new systems? The answer is not obvious.
On one hand, the introduction of new systems into the business should be led by the business. In principle, the people doing the work, dealing with the suppliers, selling to the customers, are best placed to be standing up and saying: “We need the system to do X,” whether their motivation be to reduce cost, increase revenues, make products more efficiently, or even bolster our environmental credentials.
On the other hand, though, it may be the technical teams who lead innovation. After all, many research and development (R&D) teams are predominantly technical and focus on making technology that can analyse data more efficiently, process transactions more quickly or liaise with suppliers to make procurement and delivery more efficient and cheaper.
On yet another hand, perhaps a member of your board – particularly a non-executive director who is familiar with the processes and tech of another company on whose board he or she sits – may come to the organization and say: “I just came across this innovative approach at company X – perhaps it’s something we should try.”
To add to the variable of who should be introducing new systems, there is the additional question of the approach. How many of us have been to trade shows and vendor presentations where we have been shown a product that has made us think: “What an interesting product – that could be ideal for us?” No requirements specification, no business analysis, just: that’s a great idea, I want one.
The typical business, when asked what it needs, will largely trot out as its 'requirements' the things that its tech already does
And this is nothing to be ashamed of, because the typical business, when asked what it needs, will largely trot out as its “requirements” the things that its tech already does.
We mentioned earlier the need for “the system to do X,” but such requests are rare: most business people are so focused on getting the IT department to make their current systems do what they should, as quickly as they’d like, and as reliable as they require, that they seldom ask for systems with more functionality – and they are particularly rare in their requests for new features. Ask the average user what they want from IT and the answer is that they want the Wi-Fi to work properly, or better battery life on their laptops. New features? Nah, we’ll think about that once you IT chaps have made the current features actually work.
And finally, when we do decide that there is new technology required in the business, how do we achieve it? In some companies the decision needs the approval of just one or two key individuals. In others there is a seemingly interminable range of forms; approvers; and committees that must give their blessing to any investment in something new, something unusual, something innovative … perhaps these entities are already considered the “preventers” of business rather than the “promoters” thereof.
Our short survey below aims to find out which of these make up the reality in our organisations. It’s highly likely that the outcome will be a variety of the above, plus maybe some additional concepts that we have not gone into, or even thought of. There are three questions to answer. We'll run the poll for a few days and then publish a summary on The Register thereafter. ®