A case of innovation

 

Every day I hear somebody speaking or writing about “Innovation”: it seems to be the password to gain access to the forum of the high-tech debates. How many times have I heard it while attending meetings, conferences or seminars in the halls of Confindustria Genova, and every time it was pronounced, it was misspelled or misunderstood both by the speaker and the auditors.

What is Innovation about? While for most of people who I spoke with it was only a good-to-hear word that must be used when they want to appear smarter than they are, instead Innovation is for me a way of working, a process that we use to achieve a better way of doing something, or by which we can do something that we were not able to do before.

You may think my words might sound a bit detached from the everyday reality, so let me show you a “case history” which will show you what I mean by “Innovation”.

Some years ago I was contacted by a mid-size company working in the northeast part of Italy. The person responsible of IT systems asked me to help him to resolve some technical issues about the Internet access technologies that were causing complaints from his users. He told me that he had contacted me because some years before I had met his CEO in Genoa and I had shared with him some of my personal view of the IT industry.

The first meeting I had with this manager confirmed to me what I had expected: first that the company (which was known to be one of the most profitable high-tech companies in the middle-east) was totally unstructured in management of its IT needs and, to make the circumstances worse, it had to handle the acquisition of a newly purchased company which would double the number of employees within a few weeks.

My business concept does not allow me to give to my customers other than what they really need, so I offered them an in-depth analysis of their actual condition, risks and opportunities that they would have to deal with from an IT perspective as linked to the Company’s business needs. By relying on my technical competencies and my business experiences, both the CEO and the President agreed to reorganize their Company in such a way as to have the IT management tailored to their business processes.

During the following six months I worked daily to meet the main objectives of the project:

  • design and build a new technical IT infrastructure to meet the Customer working processes;
  • migrate onto the new systems both the current Customer’s users and the users of the recently acquired business;
  • build a structured IT staff by training the current IT personnel, hiring new professionals and defining everyone’s responsibilities and benefits. Changing the Organization chart and redefining the role of the IT group in relation to the other business units.

In the end, a successful conclusion to the project came about, bringing increased revenues to everyone: to my Customer, to the companies in its value chain and to me.

Not only were all the projects goals reached on time, and a new IT department had become the first fully functional engine to serve the business processes, but it also grew into being a new business unit: it started to deliver successful IT projects for companies inside the same enterprise group, and then later to external customers. The “miracle” was done… something that had always be considered only a production cost was transformed to a new source of profitable business opportunities!

That’s only a short story, but… now what do you think about Innovation? What Innovation means for you in your everyday working?  If you have even heard about any other “case of Innovation”, maybe regarding your IT specialization area, please let me know about it!

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