Once online news and magazines encompassed social media, but now it is dominated by a couple of sites. The same is the case with ‘T’ and ‘I’ words. If ‘Innovation’ is one of the tactics used by an organisation to retain more client portfolios, then an approach that would effectively utilize the effort spent is necessary.
Innovation and though leadership are common approaches employed by organisations at present to gain market penetration or product development. They are being included in objectives or tactics put forward by the organisation to achieve their mission. One reason might be, as I have detailed in my previous post; the customers are more attracted to the “T” word.
Innovation is often included in contractual terms by customers and if not, is used as a trade strategy by organisations to sell their models/services or retain customers.
The innovation architect services horizontally in his domain by providing feasible solutions to meet the objectives. So he must be aware of the changes in the organisation’s objectives. He is often a business analyst with modest technical expertise, as extensive domain expertise and model communication are the crucial.
The process starts with circulating a mailer having clear intention of idea gathering, scope and the incentives. The organisation should provide some incentive for people to complete and return the mailer. At times from an account of 100 members, around 200 ideas are received quarterly.
From the first step of collecting ideas we move to evaluating them. The evaluating team consists of domain experts essentially business analysts, technical consultants and senior managers. This is the crucial part of the cycle. Initial screening would leave the team with a fraction of the list.
Questionnaires with judgement factors are sent to idea owners along with their engagement managers. The factors often include tangible savings – effort and resource, effort spent on current process, ease of process if implemented, client’s present inclination towards innovation, reusable quotient, effort to deliver the model, scalability; the scale is rated against 0-10. The innovation quotient is calculated from the Questionnaires.
The ideas are then classified into
1) Process improvement – Daily, Weekly and Monthly process – ideas majorly from the users of the UI systems, servicing teams and business users.
2) Innovation in Model using stub model – An idea of a stub embedded into an existing model, from Business analysts and system architects.
3) Solution for problems that the client is currently facing – ideas can be from Business analysts.
The process further requires inputs from Timesheets as the effort spent is often exaggerated. The use of activity sampling sheets is found to be helpful by leaving the settling period. Activity sampling can be done by shadowing the users combined with the ethnographic study (getting familiar with the users and process). The assembled ideas are mapped to the processes or activities virtually. Quoting an example, from sampling, the daily activity of a user can fall into 3 activities, A: B: C while the effort spent on A to B to C is 1:3:4.
From my experience, I found a trend that majority of the ideas fall into activities such as “C”, predominantly due to the massive efforts spent on a redundant activity.
For these ideas, effort savings if deployed apart from the build effort is calculated. If the build effort of the model is high, it is advisable to attract budget from the customer weighing the pros of the innovation. If the idea is a solution to a problem, the resource savings or revenue generated is estimated. By now, with the information available you would be able to sieve ideas that would add considerable value to the customer.
The next part is decision making which starts with a workshop including the idea owner and rest of the team. The pros against the cons of the model are analysed and brainstorming is done on negating the cons. If the team comes to a decision, the idea is taken forward or abandoned. It is advisable not to put ideas on hold and decision them in a single workshop. Such workshops often work well on Fridays.
Communication to customer about the model is crucial in the next phase. The innovation architect can come up with a presentation from the data collected along with the stats. If the customer is more inclined towards innovation, he would ideally be attracted to the worthiness of the solution. If customer is not able to provide required budget, it is better to go with ideas that provide breakthrough but utilize minor build efforts and deploy them as a discount.
The final stage includes building and deploying the model.
I would outline the entire process as
1) Eliciting the ideas from the users or servicers.
2) Evaluating ideas includes initial screening and detailed score based model.
3) Decision making in workshop.
4) Client communication to attract budget.
5) Building the model.