How Innovation Makes Companies More Competitive and What You Can Do to Make Yours More Innovative | Article
What separates a great organization from other good companies? Management? People? Policies? Quality? Probably all of these and more.
Innovation has always been the single most important factor in ensuring a distinctive advantage, giving companies a higher market position. Quality and process excellence ensure maximum benefits from innovations – both incremental and quantum.
What exactly is innovation? Innovation causes companies to do things differently, making them more competitive. In simple terms, innovation is a deviation from the conventional method to improve products and/or services resulting in business gains.
Innovation is not just a technological breakthrough. It can be related to people, process, policy, technology and practices, among others. Facebook is perhaps the biggest example of innovation in recent times. In less than eight years, it has become one of the most valued companies of the world with almost 900 million users worldwide.
What did Facebook do differently from other online community sites already in existence? Facebook came up with series of innovative offerings like bringing privacy into the market, putting everything under one roof and adding social RSS and gaming into the portal and then combined them with excellent service in terms of uptime, speed and user friendliness. Facebook was also in the right market at the right time.
The innovation cycle
There are certain components that can help companies innovate. There is a cycle that innovation has to go through, irrespective of the kind of innovation. Miss any of the links from this cycle and it is impossible for an initiative to become an innovation. And the important term here is “cycle.” Innovation has to be a repetitive process, since what is innovation today may become a basic need tomorrow.
- An idea without execution is just a dream and only belongs to the dreamers, influencing no one else
- An executed idea with no marketplace is just an invention
- A well-accepted product or service needs commercialization and scalability to achieve maximum business benefits.
Innovation is not only technological enhancement (although it is the enabler for most innovations). In fact, innovation has three components:
Often innovation initiatives fail to deliver the expected results because the company just focused on just one of the three enablers.
Innovation means change and hence, change management is important to ensure the larger organization accepts the new way of doing things. It’s wise to form a change control board whose responsibility is to look at the potential impact of a change on existing processes, the cost of change and employee readiness to accept those changes. Change can also impact customers. The change process needs to ensure that everyone is adequately trained to handle and accept the changes that such initiatives bring in.
Quality and Process Excellence
The other base for the innovation model is quality and process excellence. Quality has the most important role to play. Typically, the technology team is responsible for the quality function across the organization.
For example, some of the innovative programs run by BPO organizations include:
- Kaizen lounge: A central online war room for people to contribute their innovative ideas
- Centers of excellence
- IP portfolio building: Patents, trademarks and copyrights wherever applicable.
- Academia: Connecting with top academic institutions around the world to carry out research on niche topics.
- Innovation Lab: For incubation of innovative technologies, platforms and analytical services etc.
- Business excellence: To ensure innovation is a day to-day practice.
To summarize, innovation is a key in driving the success and competitiveness of an organization. It has to be driven top down and in a structured way while striking a delicate balance between process and entropy.
“Innovation is about action versus just ideas. It is about implementation as much as it about design. Innovation need not be restricted to products or technology alone. Innovation applies to innovations in business model as well as quality, productivity, service, financial discipline, employee attitudes and renewal. Innovation is a culture that needs to be created consciously and pursued assiduously by the organization.”
Azim H Premji, Chairman, Wipro Ltd
Innovation at Wipro
Wipro created its Process (Innovation) Lab as a game changer; the teams at the lab study the multiple elements of a business—its people, process and technology—to craft out-of-the box solutions to significantly improve an enterprise’s business environment.
On the people side, we had Six Sigma black belts and Lean experts with superior process engineering skills. In changing the business environment it was important that we align them to domain so they can play an important role in a client’s transformation journey. We now insist our process engineers have deep domain experience in either a specific service line or industry vertical. Currently, we have over 100 of these experts across the globe in BPO business.
On the process side, we noticed there are common underlying processes regardless of the core process or industry we migrated. So we began helping our customers standardize their enabling environments. We developed plug and play tools (like Auxilium and Colossus, to name two) to automate the enabling processes.
Finally, on the technology side, we studied business challenges and then figured out how to deploy today’s cutting edge technologies. For example, we noticed most companies were only able to analyze structured data, which is no more than 10 percent of all data. In other words, enterprises were ignoring 90 percent of their data because the analysis was restricted to conventional sources of data like CRM tools.
To overcome the challenge, we developed a customer interaction analytics model where we leverage technology to analyze speech (voice interactions), text (email and chat) and social media. For speech analytics we developed a library of lexicons. We customize our lexicons by industry vertical, service lines and business objectives. Now the technology can analyze all the calls even if the data is unstructured. Size is no longer a problem because there is little manual intervention.
For example, we provide customer services for a leading energy and utilities company. We leveraged speech analytics to analyze the calls using our vast library of lexicons. This helped them rework certain policy and procedures. Their findings were no longer limited to checklists and helped identify issues that were then categorized into people, process and policies. The result was significant improvement in their customer satisfaction scores.
Another example of technology innovation is our ability to simulate changes in a process in a virtual environment before actually implementing the changes in real processes. We then analyze the process outcome and can change inputs to the process just by clicking a few buttons; we then reanalyze the process outcome. We can do this repeatedly until we arrive at the desired outcome. This then gives us the correct processes values.
Lastly, we did the simulation exercise in a procure-to-pay process. We studied the hand offs, people utilization, etc. all in a virtual environment. We uncovered the road blocks, which helped us identify and then eliminate waste in the process.