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Automate innovation to ease transformation

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Kathy Gibson reports from CeBit, Hannover – Trying to survive in a rapidly-digitising world is no easy task for companies, and innovative new products and services could mean the difference between success and failure. But the innovation journey is not an easy one, with many organisations failing to make the leap.
Identifying the right innovation to work on is key to succeeding, says Itonics’ Professor Dr Michael Durst – an operation he likens to trying to find a needle in a haystack.
There are many factors to consider when embarking on the innovation journey, he points out.
“The corporate strategy is normally pretty clear – companies know who their target market is, who their customers are, what their requirements are, and what products are already offered.”
But what he calls the black box is where front-end innovation needs to happen, and this is a trickier proposition altogether. Here the priorities haven’t been set, there are no solid processes, idea collection tends to be passive, and there is a passive monitoring of trends and technologies. “There is a lot of noise in this area,” says Durst. “Inspiration can happen -and does – but  proceeding in a focused manner doesn’t happen.”
There are many inputs that need to be considered when innovating, Durst adds. These range from politics, technology and customers to markets, competition and the company’s own business.
“These inputs need to feed into an innovation strategy that leads to long-term competitive advantage,” he explains.
Established businesses find it hard to be first movers, Durst adds – and they shouldn’t necessarily aim to always lead with new services.
“It is often better to focus on a few technology and trends – find one needle in the haystack – where you can be a first mover. Or else aim to get your product to market a little later than the pioneers, when it is more mainstream and some of the startups have fallen away.”
Deciding what to focus on is the really hard part, Durst says. “The first thing you need to do is to monitor trends in a deep and profound way, then document, classify and rate them. You can then connect the dots of the technology and trends into a holistic picture.”
It’s only once this stage is completed that companies should start looking for ideas. “You do ideation once you’ve got the trends and technologies – you don’t start with an idea,” Durst says. “Only start ideation once you understand where the opportunity space it.
“From there you can derive actions and integrated roadmapping.”
This process is still very complicated, he adds, and companies could battle to start.
“For technologies look at the Gartner Hype Cycle,” Durst suggests. “Then look at the 100s or thousands of trends that are relevant. You’ll see that consumer behaviour changes all the time, driven by hidden needs. There are lots of things out there that are ready to be picked up and run with.”
The problem is the sheer volume of trends, which could overwhelm the chief data officer with an information overload. “IT departments have also got limited budgets and simply can’t do everything,” Durst points out. “The need to focus.”
Automation could be the answer. The ability to gather fragmented data and resources that can be scanned, documented and structured, allowing collaboration by employees around the world, would be a boon.
“You need to interlink all data sources to gain meaningful insights into trends,” Durst says.
Itonics has a tool that acts like a sophisticated search engine, automatically monitors multiple sources of information. It allows collaboration on data, identifies relevant search results and aggregates the results on to a technology projection. This helps companies to measure trends and technologies in order to identify the areas of innovation they should be focusing on.