2013-09-26 11:30:48 - Shaheen Haque of interactive intelligence shares his thoughts on innovation within the cloud
Article Author: Shaheen Haque, Territory Manager, Middle East & Turkey at Interactive Intelligence
Many Middle East companies are considering migrating to the cloud because of the efficiency and managed cost savings it provides. These days, as consumer and business trends rapidly change direction, the ability to integrate new services into a business model quickly and on demand is imperative. Herein lies the true value of cloud computing. Given rapid access to applications, data, and advanced functionality, organizations can work within a cloud environment to develop and trial new cloud-based processes virtually on the go. An organization can measure the success or failure of newly integrated cloud-based services and processes in a relatively short time frame.
Thus, the cloud will help companies
of all kinds find new ways to conduct organizational operations and serve customers. But to do so, businesses need to look beyond simply meeting current requirements, to actually innovating within the cloud. This requires an understanding of how cloud technologies and the business align, making IT leaders better qualified to advance strategies for cloud-oriented innovations.
Creating an architecture to accommodate innovation
Some organizations have implemented what is known as a service-oriented architecture (SOA) to design their own applications as needed. The SOA model allows an organization to maintain software as easily managed modules, which IT teams and even users can combine to create new applications. While an SOA can reside within the organization, the cloud is becoming the preferred location for SOA initiatives because of the flexibility it gives an organization to respond to change.
Perhaps, however, a better architectural model for innovating with the cloud is a strategic enterprise architecture, or SEA. Including an organization’s business purpose and the enabling technology, an SEA reflects the organization both in its current state and future wanted states. Specifically, an SEA provides a blueprint of the business architecture and a technology architecture mapped to it. It lays out all business processes end-to-end, and incorporates customers and external partners. For long-range planning, and for objectives such as cloud-based innovation, an SEA can clearly indicate where contradictions in purpose and redundancies in execution exist.
Foster New Mindsets
Many CIOs and corporate leaders agree that innovation is not about just delivering enhanced technology such as the cloud. It is about better processes, greater agility and responsiveness, and smarter ways of working. Leaders must also sometimes rethink how goals are measured within and outside of IT. When integrating cloud technologies into a process, IT decision makers must question whether it makes that process easier, faster, and cheaper to execute? Does it allow the company to serve its customers in a more precise and accurate manner?
Encourage taking (calculated) risks
It is widely accepted that innovation in and of itself is about testing new ideas. It requires a work culture that accepts failure as readily as success. To that end, executive leaders and the organization as a whole must establish that it is acceptable to spend time even on efforts that might well fail. However, organizations must also emphasize the need to “fail fast” by testing new ideas, developments, cloud integrations, and so on, early and rigorously.
When organizations establish a culture in which people are afraid to fail when taking a calculated risk, the likelihood of generating new ideas is minimized. Leaders must therefore continually support any person volunteering an idea and willing to start without a mandate.
Most IT infrastructure leaders say the insights and capabilities of the technology vendors they work with are critical to innovation efforts.1 IT managers note that they attempt to collaborate with vendors and cloud service providers on technology roadmaps to increase the chance of innovation success. This makes it all the more important that an organization’s IT infrastructure leaders understand what their strategic vendors are developing, and whether collaboration is truly beneficial.
There are plenty of potential pitfalls that may arise out of an incorrectly evaluated collaboration. In outsourcing arrangements, such as with a cloud services provider, contract terms can get in the way of introducing new technologies and services. Even an organization’s own procurement processes and politics can inhibit collaboration with vendors.
Despite all the hurdles, organizations can still create constructive collaborative relationships with vendors. One promising trend is to form “innovation labs.” This approach allows an organization’s vendors to set up a technology environment, such as a hosted cloud service for data storage, and benchmark it against current standards. If a vendor can prove that its solution is better than the organization’s current technologies, by way of performance, usability, reliability, cost, or other criteria, the organization can choose to promote that particular solution into operation. Another more proven trend for collaborating with vendors is to co-develop technologies with smaller vendors that tend to be more agile and responsive in terms of innovation.
Ultimately, while it may hold the promise of enabling radically new ways of conducting business, cloud computing technology is only half of the innovation equation. True innovation via the cloud involves integrating cloud technologies into services that meet business-user needs and building scalable processes for provisioning and support. Whatever way this innovation is achieved, the most important outcome is that it ultimately benefits the business, users, and customers alike.