Common pitfalls when using technology to drive innovation
Many organizations use technologies to leverage innovation. As we know, the use of new technologies - such as low-code and AI platforms - can be powerful. In fact, this is what we have built Avo around. However, in Avo we have also seen some pitfalls that should be avoided, if technology is to create lasting competitive advantage, drive innovation, or both. With experience from both technology and innovation projects, I want to share some of the most common pitfalls I’ve encountered and how I think they can be avoided.
First, we know that we do not have to adopt new technologies to be innovative. On the other hand, we are not guaranteed to drive innovation by adopting new technologies either. Assuming we do want technology to be one of the drivers for innovation, the question is then how we use the technology.
Through good planning and processes, we can avoid the pitfalls mentioned below and make technology an invaluable driver for innovation.
No clear goals
Often (and hopefully) there is a reason for implementing a specific technology, such as a new low-code platform. In other words, there is a business strategy and goals motivating the need for a technology. But, when the understanding of the background and long-term goals is not translated into project/program goals, the strategic intention is undermined.
So, the goals when working with a technology should be rooted in the overarching strategies. Ensuring this will help us involve the right people and realize the desired benefits, which in the long run will increase our chances to realize our long-term strategy.
These questions can help us determine if we have clear goals:
- What are the intentions, overarching strategies, and long-term goals?
- How will new technology(ies) help us towards reaching our goals and deliver on our strategies?
- What projects should we start, and what should the specific project goals be?
Not choosing the right technology
With clear goals, we have a better understanding of current and future organizational needs and can more easily choose a technology that best fits us. This might be an off-the-shelf platform, or something we choose to build in-house.
As an example, in our talks with MyCar Group the goals were clear; (1) efficient processes, (2) efficient data flow and (3) user-friendliness. We saw that we needed a tailored platform, which lead to the involvement of the no-code company Appfarm. In this case, building a new car handling software with Appfarm allowed for the right amount of adaptability and efficiency towards reaching our goals.
These questions can help us determine what technology we should choose:
- What are the business requirements?
- Can we do this ourselves, or do we need to buy a from-the-shelf technology or platform?
- What can we learn from organizations that have worked with the same type of technology?
Not organizing for innovation
If technology is to have strategic importance and drive innovation, we should always consider the accompanying organizational design. We need to look at how we are going to create value for our users or customers and what people we need to involve. Luckily, this is not something we need to figure out immediately.
In the example of MyCar Group, part of the ongoing Proof of Value involves building technology that supports the organizational values and ways of working, rather than adapting the working processes and values to the technology itself. In other words, the process of organizing for innovation can be done in parallel with technology implementation.
These questions can help us determine how we should organize:
- Who do we need to involve in the implementation period?
- Who will have the ownership of the solution after it is implemented?
- Who is responsible for operation and maintenance, after implementation?
Not allowing for new ways of working
More specifically on the topic of people and organization, we should think of how the team involved with the technology will be allowed to work. As a manager or project leader, allowing for new ways of working can be a key driver in creating employee experience and cultivating an innovation culture. This can involve everything from how the teams report to where they sit.
These questions can help determine how teams can work with technology:
- What value is the technology helping create?
- How should we collaborate within the team and with other teams?
- How can we allow for rapid testing and iteration in development?
Not listening to the data
Change processes that involve both technology and innovation can be challenging, and for the team working closest with the technology the learning curve can be steep. While trying and failing is important, making data available and documenting best practices can help us create a tight-knit team pulling in the same direction.
Listening to the data involves realizing the benefits from the initiative. Further, communicating the realized benefits outside the team closest to the change can help us create a momentum, engage the rest of the organization, and create lasting change.
These questions can help us determine how we can work with data:
- How should we monitor and control project progress?
- What data from the technology would be valuable, and how can we use it?
- How do we prioritize improvements that can be made?
Knowing the common pitfalls does not guarantee success, but it can give a good direction in the planning phase.
One common theme for the mentioned pitfalls, is that it can be challenging to think in terms of both strategy and operations at the same time. But the organizations who succeed maximize the probability of unlocking the potential technology creates.
Another common theme in this article, and maybe the most important one, is that succeeding with technology and innovation is just as much about “people” – and putting the right people in the place, at the right time. It is people that make decisions, and it is ultimately they that can avoid the pitfalls we face when using technology to drive innovation.