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Four Barriers to IT Innovation

by Bunny Tharpe       • May 19, 2015

When people think about IT Innovation, many would think of a finished product; a new piece of technology or a new system. But as we know, this completely misses the mark. Innovation for an IT executive is ultimately about the processes, transformation, and achieving new business outcomes.

Innovation is increasingly on the CIOs agenda as research shows 50% want to spend more time on innovation. We’ve outlined below four common barriers that IT organizations must solve in order to capture new ideas and successfully innovate.

Challenges in Ideation

IT teams that have problems capturing ideas and feedback from its stakeholders will likely recognize the following scenarios:

  • Unclear process: The path to submitting ideas is not 100% clear or accessible to all stakeholders.
  • Vague goals: Employees are not focussed on solving or achieving a specific goal, so ideas are not aligned with the current IT strategy.
  • Lack of feedback: Contributors are unsure if their ideas are being valued or seen by the IT innovation team.

IT teams need a defined and repeatable process for capturing ideas and input from its stakeholders. Working on a campaign basis helps keep ideas aligned with current goals, while robust feedback mechanisms ensure new ideas are acknowledged.

Risk-Averse Contributors

Nobody wants to feel or be seen to fail, especially when people believe their professional reputation could be at risk. This is why many stakeholders in the IT ecosystem can be reluctant to share their ideas with the community; the fear of pursuing a bad idea that does not deliver value, or the thought of wasting time and resources.

Promoting a “no idea is a bad idea” message to stakeholders can help overcome this. And visualizing the impact of innovative ideas using Enterprise Architecture, IT teams can confidently eliminate less worthwhile concepts before investing time and resources in development and implementation.

Lack of Leadership Support

Without sufficient support from a senior business leader, employees often do not feel driven or that even that they have permission to contribute to Innovation campaigns. Clear and focussed support from the CIO, for example, helps all employees understand that they have a part to play in driving forward innovation.

Hierarchy of employee engagement

Like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, every organization should be aware of a hierarchy of employee engagement which can help innovators understand the reasons behind varying levels of engagement amongst different stakeholder communities. There are a couple of key points to be aware of;

  • Employees who feel only their basic “survival” and “security’ needs are met, are highly unlikely to engage in any innovation efforts.
  • The middle “belonging” stage and above, is made up of employees who feel they are a part of the company’s community and culture and will typically engage in innovation efforts.

Understanding the above barriers can give IT teams a head start in their IT innovation efforts. Please share your thoughts and feedback on the above using the comments section.

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