Ged Roberts, Global Head for HiTech ISU Operations and Process Excellence, Tata Consultancy Services
A popular notion regarding innovation is that the onus is on the designers of a product or the provider of a service. Often overlooked is the fact that it is just as important that innovation is incorporated into the personal responsibility of every associate and every segment within the organization, this includes traditional production & operations as well as back-office administration functions.
This article discusses the challenges and problems that many companies experience in deploying constructive and notable innovation processes within their organizations. It explores the perceptions and prejudices that pose a hindrance to the progress of such initiatives despite everyone’s desire to succeed in this area. This document also proposes an approach to address these challenges and recommends various techniques and the roadmap towards achieving the innovative organization.
For the purpose of this article, innovation is defined as follows:
“A change in the activities of an organisation producing an altered perspective which results in a non linear benefit”-
Most organizations face challenges when they attempt to introduce innovation within the organization. The following areas are identified as the major impediments to inculcating a culture of innovation:
Commitment to Change – Innovation, as described earlier in the document, requires significant changes in the natural order, behaviour, and response mechanisms of an organization. A commitment to change and the desire to innovate are usually examined in the light of whether all the stakeholders, who will be required to implement the change, benefit directly from the change itself.
• False Dawns – What has been the perceived success of previous major transformations e.g. CRM, EAI and so on. If the track record of significant investments in other areas has not delivered the expected benefits, what is the appetite for new initiatives in the organisation?
• Lack of Motivation – If ideas are proposed, yet are not implemented, then contribution will fall. Therefore, the question arises how do you create the visibility of recognition of submitted ideas and subsequently the visibility of implementation of selected ideas
• Costs – Lack of clarity on who assumes financial funding for the problems being addressed will seriously hamper innovation programs. In addition, how contributors are recognized, despite receiving little or no benefits have to be identified in order to facilitate effective change.
An organization must adopt a three-pronged structured approach to achieve the transformation that can culminate in a culture of innovation.
• Improvement – The result of deploying structured improvement techniques within the organization, such as Six-Sigma methodologies. Deploying improvement goals and rewards for contributors further solidify this phase within the organisation
• Ideation –The result of deploying structured management techniques to harness and deploy the knowledge within the organization, where contributors to idea generation and idea implementation are recognized and rewarded.
• Innovation – A dedicated and sufficiently funded autonomous group that is responsible for all aspects of cross-unit innovation, such as soliciting ideas, deploying ideas, and rewarding contributors. The group will need to be assigned a high level of fluidity in order to maintain dynamism and freshness of perspective.
It is important to understand that the introduction of a culture of innovation is a process that will take time. The barriers described above are potentially significant and expectations with all stakeholders need to be managed on a continuous basis...
In order to help manage this process and understand progress TCS has developed the innovation maturity model. The purpose of the model is that it provides a framework for common understanding of objectives and a platform for management to gauge success and next steps. Using the model, organisations can embark on the changes required.
TCS’ Innovation Maturity Model
The following maturity model can be used to assess an organization’s capability and readiness for innovation.
Each of the levels is described below.
Level 0 – Ad hoc: Any innovation is achieved through inspiration and good fortune. The process by which innovation is achieved is usually not documented and relies completely on being in the right place at the right time. The results are unpredictable and non-repeatable.
Level 1 – Improvement: Individual projects within an organization are empowered to implement changes in day-to-day operations and processes. Structured methods are used, such as Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma. Associates are motivated to develop specific skills and obtain certifications such as green belt and black belt. Corporate focus and measures are used to help drive behaviour in the organization. Individual rewards for employees who participate are a component of their yearly appraisal.
Level 2 – Ideation: An organization leverages structured methods and platforms to capture and share ideas and improvements. The focus is on collection and crowd sourcing of ideas, which can be generated by multiple units in the group including third parties. Organizational units are measured based on how many of these ideas are effectively managed from response through to completion, with specific attention and rewards focusing on cross-unit activities. A budget is allocated to these activities.
Level 3 – Innovation: Cross-organizational platforms and dedicated functional units are established to plan, solicit, generate, and implement new ideas. Yearly budgets are allocated for groups and projects. Cross-organizational commitment to deployment is managed and arranged. The success and rewards are determined by the deployment of innovation, not by the individual effect of the change within the (sub) unit. Therefore, all parties involved in the initiative share the success or failure. Structural rotation within the innovation group is implemented to maintain freshness of perspective
The solution suggested in the course of the paper provides a structured approach that allows organizations to set expectations, drive towards a culture of change, and maximize the measurable value from the innovation budget. Setting clear goals and methods enables maximum commitment and contribution from all stakeholders, who are fundamental to achieving success in innovation.
Between 2008 and 2011, TCS had achieved benefits in excess of USD 300 million owing to efforts in the innovation space. Although, TCS’ journey towards complete maturity in this respect is far from complete, the results achieved so far provide a testimony to the effectiveness of the approach.
About the Author
Ged Roberts is the Global Head for HiTech ISU Operations and Process Excellence. In this role, Ged is responsible for ensuring effective operational delivery and process excellence across the unit Ged joined TCS in May 2007 and formed part of the European Delivery Management Team responsible for delivery assurance across Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg. Prior to joining TCS, Ged had worked for a number of internationally focused companies managing and delivering software services across Europe, America and Asia Pacific. His experience encompasses both service providers and clients. Ged is an honours graduate in Computer Science with more than 25 years of IT experience and is based out of the Amsterdam office in The Netherland.