Robert Trnovec
Robert Trnovec 20 May 2016

Innovation Is About Culture Not Technology

In all this talk of digital disruption and innovation, existing IT organizations might feel left out. They are wondering whether the competencies they’ve been developing through years and even decades are now obsolete.

These departments are built around efficiency and focus on reliability and robustness. However, these are not the words that would describe the digital transformation processes that require organizations to be flexible and agile to be able to innovative.
This innovation might be hard to unlock. Innovation requires taking risks and trying new approaches, which is the exact opposite of what IT departments have been doing for years. However, without IT departments developing their creative and innovation chops, digital transformation is simply not possible. It does require support and leadership from top management but it also needs support from the people in IT, who will make it happen. Ideas need to be realized not just generated.

To make this happen, one of the key factors that need to be addressed is the company culture in general and IT culture in particular. Innovation challenges existing roles, processes and power structures and there is always resistance when things change. Also, digital transformation cannot be just a vague outline in the future – instead, it needs to be a concrete plan of action that employees are aware is being executed on right now. 
If you are leading an IT department, this is your focus. The benefits and processes of digital need to be communicated, although it is even more important to demonstrate the right values such as collaboration, informed risk-taking, and openness to new ideas. Employees need to be encouraged to take risks in an environment in which it is OK to take risks, even if they sometimes fail.

The goal is then to switch the focus from avoiding risks completely to managing risk to support innovation. Of course, servers still need to run 24/7 to support your business and operations. Of course, endpoints still need to be protected against viruses and other threats. But, you shouldn’t avoid changes at all cost. 

For example, we are now at a point, where very few companies still need to run all of their servers. At the very least, messaging and collaboration servers can easily be migrated to the cloud, freeing up your resources to focus on creating innovation. And every day, there are more things and services that can be offloaded to the cloud so you can focus on things that will drive your competitive advantage. 

So, digital transformation will depend on innovation of all parts of the company, particularly the IT department. IT leaders need to be aware of how they can drive this change, which is less about technological disruption and more about cultural and mindset change that can support the ambitious plans of making your company digital.

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