Technology has been innovating at a rapid pace, disrupting industries by doing everything from scaling connected car services to implementing facial recognition. Businesses and leaders have been trying to keep pace while watching what their competitors are doing, taking the pulse of the environment they're surrounded by.
While companies have kept engineers, developers, designers, and other experts busily innovating the technology fueling their work, they've often failed to develop systems and processes that can truly incorporate these innovations without destroying them. As any CEO could tell you, an innovation that can't be used may as well not exist.
At December's Indo-European Conference on Creating a Robust IP Ecosystem for ICT in the 21st Century, K.R. Sanjiv, chief technology officer of Wipro Limited, explained how smart devices, AI, 3D printing, blockchain, and other emerging technologies are impacting the business ecosystem. "There are these big technologies that not only promise to disrupt and improve the performance and efficiencies to a level that's unheard of, but they pretty much redefine the way of life which we live in," said Sanjiv.
He noted that the 1980s were driven by the PC revolution, the 1990s endured change brought on by the internet, and the 2000s witnessed the mobile revolution. This decade, however, is different, focusing on more than one technology or disruption. "Each by themselves is capable of complete disruption, an 800-lb. gorilla," Sanjiv said.
A 2017 PwC CEO Survey found that innovation was the number one area leaders planned to strengthen to remain competitive. The survey also found that many CEOs' fear of losing their technological advantage has strongly increased over the past five years. All this points to a future of businesses innovating to elbow out the competition, but what happens when they fail to innovate their infrastructure simultaneously?
Businesses that hope to succeed in this dog-eat-dog tech world have to step back and take a two-pronged approach to their innovations: adapting their technology and adapting their systems and structures to work in tandem with the technology. It's unrealistic to expect an old system to absorb new technology when leaders and employees have difficulty doing so.
Building--or rebuilding--an infrastructure that enables future growth and sustainability requires multiple considerations.
1. Set expectations with investors.
Investors are attracted to innovative companies, with more and more pouring their money into businesses that may contain the next industry-disrupting technology. Many want to see that disruptive innovation sooner rather than later, putting pressure on businesses to quickly produce and release innovations without concern for whether their internal structures are sustainable. Innovative companies, then, must set expectations with investors that they will need to adapt existing infrastructures to make these innovations scalable and long-lasting.
Christian Sanz, the founder and CEO of Skycatch, a firm that does industrial 3D mapping and develops drone software, said it's important to find investors who will see eye to eye with a company's needs and goals. "Do your homework on investors," said Sanz in a 2016 article "It's easy to get caught up in your pitch and forget about the investor, but remember that investors are people, too, each with his or her own unique investment principles. The smart entrepreneur vets potential investors ahead of time."
2. Keep an eye on dying and growing opportunities.
One area where many companies stumble is in allocating resources to and building structures for the right areas. It's easy to be preoccupied with existing services and product lines and to overlook offerings that are wilting or significantly outgrowing a company's expectations for them.
Technology and innovation management company nu Angle in its "Developing a Strong R&D Structure to Drive Company Growth" whitepaper said that one development can essentially finish one segment and create openings for others. "For example, digital convergence creates threats to existing technologies and opportunities for new types of services," it explained. Building a system that accommodates new opportunities without creating dependencies on fading ones is key to long-term growth.
3. Break the silos surrounding departments.
Businesses also hold themselves back when attempting to create a sustainable structure by failing to remove the invisible barriers between their departments. Recognizing that an automated process that benefits one function may also benefit another is vital for building a system that not only facilitates current innovations, but also enables future ones.
Becoming digital often requires reinventing the entire business process.
This reinvention is exactly what will help build sustainable structures to give companies' innovations room to grow both today and tomorrow. While innovative developments make news every single day, we rarely hear about how companies are re-examining everything they believed about how their systems need to be structured to succeed. Without that, their innovations will have very little impact.