The Business of Changing Business

Innovation is a mind-set — break through the cloud of fear and risk.
This story appears in the July 2009 issue of BizTech Magazine.
Maria Sullivan Vice President of Business Sales CDW

We all want to be innovators, but the risk of failure is always present. Managers and companies naturally fear failure and risk, and those fears can stand like a brick wall preventing a commitment to innovation.

IT departments must resist the temptation to hold fast and ride out the economic storm. If this describes you, you need to understand that others will use this situation as an opportunity to innovate. When the coast is clear, they will be ready to spring forward, while you will be making up for lost time.

This holds true both at the departmental IT level all the way up the economic chain. If there is one thing that being in the IT field can teach you, it is that change is inevitable, and either you master it or it masters you.

For example, McHenry Savings Bank in Illinois used to back up its image data every day from all its remote locations. The IT staff used tape to back up thousands of images and hired couriers to transfer those tapes to different locations for storage.

After evaluating its processes, the bank moved to a data-deduplication storage system, which allowed faster backup and freed up storage capacity. Because of the space required to store the tape and the time it took to transmit the redundant data, substantial savings added up.

Likewise, Colorado Capital Bank in Castle Rock, Colo., knew they were spending too much money on security software, but it wasn’t until they upgraded the bank’s software earlier this year that they realized it was using three different software packages from three different vendors — one for antivirus, one for spyware and a third to secure endpoint devices. It was very expensive and highly inefficient.

The solution was to deploy a software suite that delivers all three capabilities. By saving money on maintenance agreements and consolidating software contracts, the new security suite will pay for itself within a year.

Manage Risk, Minimize Failure

The first thing to understand about innovation is that it can be a rational process. We all think of new ideas as coming from a “flash of genius” or “eureka moment,” but even a flash-of-genius idea must go through a tedious process of getting ready to go to market. That process is critical to reducing risk and proving the idea is a truly useful tool for your company. That rational process is what enables you to manage risk and minimize failure.

Done properly, innovation is a holistic, multi­functional effort. Naturally, you will need your technical staff to implement change. But the crucial risk-mitigation steps, the repetitive loops of generating the ideas, generating proof of concept, and finally rolling out the product or service also requires financial and marketing input. This requires cross-functional teams, and that means changing attitudes toward innovation and adopting a pro-innovation mind-set.

Knowledge is power. If you can ensure that everyone knows that there can be a process to inhibit risk and enhance the likelihood of profitable innovation, when everyone knows that some ideas will fail, when everyone knows that the uncertainty and doubt are part of the process, then the fear of innovation — as well as the risk — is reduced. Then you can get on with the business of changing business.

Maria Sullivan is vice president of business sales at CDW.
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