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Innovation, start small but deliver with impact!

For many corporates, it’s still difficult to transition from process and/ or system optimisation, benchmarking, automation and other continuous improvements towards innovation. In some of my previous articles, I have focussed on hot to set-up effective innovation teams, how to break the operational silos and how you should be measuring the operational innovation results instead of the process. One thing that all these articles have in common is to provide you direct insight in how you’re able to deliver an impact through innovation…

Many organisations struggle to introduce innovation and look and look at external expertise to deliver innovative solutions. I strongly believe that the best innovative solutions come from internal teams and although externals will be effective in assisting in the translation of innovation into results, the ideation (the core principles of innovation) should come from inside your organisation. Even though there are many external innovation specialists that “promise” to deliver innovation for your organisation, unfortunately, the only thing these “specialists” can assist with is:

  • Start of the Innovation:
    • Guiding the innovation process to ensure effective and result-focussed innovation
    • Ensure a clear framework is established that connects the innovation with the desired business results, organisational goals, commercial or productivity targets, etc.
    • Prompting or expanding ideas in the ideation phase

  • During the innovation:
    • Assist with the innovation “gate” process to ensure that the organisation continuous or kills the innovation idea at the right “gate”, and more important, actually stop pursuing innovation ideas that will not deliver the desired business results
    • Continuous guidance and active support to ensure that “the innovation” or minimal viable solution is continuously improved at every iteration
    • Ensure that every iteration will deliver impact and gets closer to the desired business goals

  • Continuous Innovation
    • Ensure that innovation successes and “failures” are celebrated to allow the organisation to transfer into enterprise-wide innovation acceptance.

So, how do you start small, but deliver a big impact?

The main area where innovation can start “small” is your operational environment. Across Finance & Accounting, Human Resources, Supply Chain, Procurement and even many other sub-operational departments incl. transport management, accounts payable, accounts receivable, intercompany, performance management and many more, organisations can start to introduce innovative solution development to deliver innovation. Even though these areas will not be the “sexy” innovation solution that many senior executives, middle-management and your employees classify as innovation, these are the areas where innovation solutions will have the biggest impact.

By making small changes in how organisations integrate their end-to-end value chain with/ without technologies, it allows an end-to-end impact to the operational environment and to the bottom-line. Areas where I have seen major innovative solutions have been:

  • Finance & Accounting: Using machine-learning functionality to move towards continuous accounting with “automated reconciliation”, “continuous financial accounting matching”, immediate allocation management and many more finance effectiveness solutions,
  • Human Resources: changing performance processes and introducing “feedback tools” to introduce direct feedback, career guidance, weakness monitoring, etc.
  • Supply Chain: introduce an end-to-end transport management eCommerce solution to deliver self-service, pre-determined bidding, integration with procurement and other back-office solutions, etc.

By starting small and looking at which operational areas are most in need of innovative change, I have been able to actively guide organisations to introduce effective operational innovation solutions that deliver results.  

So, the next time when you’re looking to kick-off innovation in your organisation, please consider to start with operational innovation. Only by actively introducing cross-functional operational innovation through value-add solutions that connect your internal with your external operational environment, you’ll start small, but deliver the impact you’re expecting from innovation… 

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