The innovation tightrope hindered by lack of support, budget and skills

Organisations often champion themselves as leaders in innovation. And, while this enthusiasm is admirable, it is regularly misplaced. Tight resources and strong internal resistance, too often, scupper innovation (effectively digital transformation) plans.

This is supported by research released today from KCOM, which identifies three main hurdles to innovation.

A lack of senior stakeholder support is the greatest inhibitor of change, followed closely by a falling IT budget and a lack of specialist skills.

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These problems are being compounded by an overly predictive procurement processes, whereby organisations are turning away the specialist skills and experience that could help them advance.

However, eager to be more competitive, businesses are looking to leap over these innovation hurdles.

According to the research, almost half of businesses surveyed are considering driving digital transformation to improve competitive advantage to be their top priority in the next year. And, a further 32% are allocating at least 20% of IT budget to new projects.

The year of the cloud

Organisations are moving to the cloud to help support their digital transformation efforts. Indeed, the move to the cloud is the first step on the road to successful innovation.

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The research backs this up. When it comes to innovation, organisations are overwhelmingly looking to the cloud. Almost three quarters of those surveyed — following Carlsberg’s and The Telegraph’s example — are planning to invest in cloud migration and the implementation of cloud native applications in the next twelve months.

Organisations are making an effort to increase data security, with 65% intending to invest in improving identity management services. By contrast, only 20% will invest in integrating data across systems to improve business flow and customer view — KCOM

For the people

Both public and private sector organisations are taking an increasingly people-centric approach to digital transformation — it is the employee, after all, who drives it. In the next year, 80% said they would incentivise staff retention through training, accreditation and career development to deliver on their innovation strategy. This is compared to 71% who said they would do so by investing in new technologies.

Failure by industry

Managing expectations and dealing with failure are crucial aspects of innovation drives and digital transformation initiatives.

Managing expectations and dealing with failure are crucial aspects of innovation drives and digital transformation initiatives. In fact, a willingness to fail is essential to the success of new projects.

According to KCOM’s research, fortunately, the majority either embrace failure if it is recognised early enough to limit costs (46%) or see it as a natural part of innovation (10%).

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However, the definition of ‘failure’ depends on the industry. Over two in five of those in health and social care view late delivery as failure, whereas only a fifth of those in financial services feel the same way.

Budget is also an issue, and more than 72% of the total respondents — regardless of industry — defined a project that comes in over budget as a failure. This is compared to nearly half (45%) who define it as a failure to achieve the original designated outcome.

The definition of failure differs across industries — quite rightly — but it’s a good sign that the majority are willing to embrace it. Failure is embraced as step towards innovation.

Stephen Long, MD at KCOM Enterprise, said: “It is positive to see that organisations are embracing cloud technology as the path to innovation, and they recognise some of the challenges holding them back. However, too many are stopped from giving their all to innovation projects by fear of failure.

“Innovation, by its very nature, involves pushing the boundaries of what is known and understood. Organisations must accept that failure plays an important role in doing this. Only by obeying Samuel Beckett’s dictum to ‘Try again. Fail again. Fail better’ can companies truly unlock the value of the cloud and new ways of working.

“Fortune favours the bold, so companies need to prepare to fail, and build in a fast failure stage into all their innovation projects.”

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is the editor for Information Age. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and cyber security.

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