Innovation starts with the creativity to find ideas that have a competitive edge and can create a significant difference for customers. But companies need much more than just bright ideas. They need to make sure that they have an environment that can bring the right ideas to fruition, and faster than any competitor: Are we efficient enough? Can we cope with an increasing number of parallel projects? Likewise, bright ideas that imply a complete overhaul of the organization model, or rebuild half of the IT infrastructure, no matter how innovative could simply be unachievable due to complexity or cost.
So, which ideas to pursue and which to abandon – and how to decide?
Informed decisions, smart choices
Decision-makers need to be able to assess which elements of the organization would be affected, what the impact is going to be, and then to know how to manage that impact. Only then can they take informed decisions, leading them inevitably to making smart choices.
But where in the organisation is there a body of experts that can provide the basis for making smart choices? Enterprise architecture (EA) is what helps organizations evaluate the impact and the feasibility of bright ideas.
Enterprise architects can plot the existing situation, and identify what is needed to realize a particular innovation project. Would the project imply process change, new information requirements, organizational adjustments, extra competencies, IT updates? The Enterprise Architects can provide answers to these questions.
Thinking in terms of fit-for-purpose is another essential element to make smart choices: only change what really needs to be changed. A simple 20% of all possible changes will typically deliver 80% of the desired result – Pareto’s efficiency also applies to IT projects.
Too often, companies aim for the stars with perfect and exhaustively complete solutions where the majority of the effort, complexity and therefore cost delivers little or no real value to the business.
A fit-for-purpose approach is a prerequisite for successful innovation projects.
Innovation in a sandbox
In addition, Enterprise Architects also suggest innovative solutions that can accelerate R&D projects without impacting the entire operating environment.
A good example would be sandbox environments for speedy building and testing of new solutions. These sandboxed environments would ideally be supervised by Enterprise Architects and be separated from the rest of the organisation. Sandboxed environments are transient in nature; quickly created and immediately erasable as required, but they also provide a bridge to the existing operating environment once the project’s success and stability has been sufficiently proven inside the sandbox.