Opinion: Support your IT ideas with action

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Opinion: Support your IT ideas with action

Innovation has become one of the most over-used words in technology, but it remains perhaps the most important one in IT leaders’ vocabulary.

It is one of those words that suffers for being too open to interpretation.

When it emerges from the mouth of a politician, you can usually assume it means little more than some vague commitment to a policy to support skills development or encourage research investment and will no doubt be superceded by another new policy when it fails.

From business leaders, the word is often part of a warning that without it the economy will lose out to emerging innovation hothouses such as India and China.

So it is all the more important that IT managers know what they mean when they put innovation at the top of their priority list – which is exactly where it should be.

For one thing, it is not to be confused with invention. Instead, innovation is about smart people doing things more smartly than the competition. It is about ways to use emerging technologies that work for your business. And it means taking measured risks on new ideas and building a culture to support innovators.

There are two great examples in these pages. Lastminute.com two years ago set up an innovation group, who found the key to success is quick development, using agile methodologies to bring ideas to fruition.

At Visa Europe, the company faces a never-ending task of being smarter than the credit-card crooks. A constant process of innovation in product development is essential.

Proof-of-concept testing helps to identify ideas that will work for consumers. There are valuable lessons that can be learned from both organisations.

Chief executives will always expect strict return on investment plans for any IT spending and especially so in a recession. But to make a real difference, it is return on innovation that needs to be part of the IT leader’s pitch.
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