Innovation In The New Normal | Straight Talk

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This article is by Featured Blogger Claus Jepsen from his Blog Page. Republished with the author’s permission.

Chief Technology Officer at Unit4, overseeing development of intelligent software for service organizations. 

Necessity is the mother of invention — and the pandemic has certainly triggered some surprising innovations. “First up in the next normal,” says a recent McKinsey briefing on Covid-19’s implications for business, “is ‘revenge shopping,’ as many consumers open their wallets for goods and services they’ve done without recently.” 

Other trends that McKinsey notes, none of which are traditionally associated with recessions, include the surprising growth in the number of new businesses, an incredible rise in productivity and permanent changes in consumer behavior. 

IDC concurs in its Worldwide Cloud 2021 Predictions: “Covid-19 has acted as an accelerant to shifting consumer preferences and business models. Global retail 2020 growth estimates will be halved from pre-COVID-19 forecasts. Retailers are responding with alternative delivery methods and more digital touchpoints across the shopping experience.” 

Other changes, it says, have been the shift to home working, changes in safety and operating procedures and the move to online learning by educational institutions. 

While all these changes have all been forced upon organizations by the pandemic, they could turn out to have long-term value. So how should organizations approach innovation into the new normal? 

Continue And Accelerate Transformation 

The way to keep innovating through disruption is to go on the offensive, even while acting defensively. While it makes sense to put some projects on the back burner, you should also press on with your strategic transformation. 

This might take the form of continuing with an existing program. One nonprofit we work with, which was in the middle of a three-year transformation journey, said it had changed all its back-office platforms because it believed the ability to continue implementation remotely was vital to its success in the future. 

Many organizations are going one stage further and actually accelerating their rate of transformation. A recent study from my company found that during Covid-19, global decision-makers “have become more agile in their planning (49%), acknowledge the pace of innovation has increased (42%), while 35% say it has sped up their investment in moving to the cloud.” 

The Role Of The CTO In Enabling Continuous Innovation 

So, how does the CTO foster and encourage innovation in tumultuous times? How can they ensure their organization copes with the difficulties of the present while simultaneously preparing itself for the unknown challenges and opportunities ahead? 

The answer is that they need to develop a technological platform that supports a strategy of continuous people-centric innovation — an underlying capability that’s ready for anything and can be changed at a moment’s notice. 

One technology strategy advisor to the higher education sector told me that we all had to start building for an unknown future, and the only way to do that was by using more flexible, adaptable, modifiable systems that can really adjust to change. 

Accelerate The Move To Cloud 

Most organizations are accelerating their move to cloud as a result of the pandemic, says Rick Villars, who works as the group vice president of Worldwide Research at IDC. “By the end of 2021,” he says, “based on lessons learned in the pandemic, most enterprises will put a mechanism in place to accelerate their shift to cloud-centric digital infrastructure and application services twice as fast as before the pandemic.” 

The reason organizations are right to accelerate their migration to cloud at this time is that cloud is accessible, resilient and flexible. Workloads hosted in the cloud can be accessed anywhere, so when workers have to work from home, they can continue to use enterprise software as if they were in the office. 

Being distributed, and hosted in top-tier data centers with inherent redundancy, cloud-based services can be more resilient than many on-premise ones. The operational and commercial flexibility of cloud also means organizations can scale their resources and costs up or down at will in line with fluctuating demand. 

Lay The Foundations Of Adaptability 

CTOs need to pursue capabilities that make them more adaptable. As well as being cloud-based, systems that are inherently adaptable have two other key characteristics: they have a microservices architecture and feature open APIs. 

A microservices architecture means that a working system can be assembled from a library of pre-existing components, which is much quicker and cheaper than having to write code from scratch. Open APIs are universal software connectors that allow one program to interact with another. 

The combination of microservices and APIs makes systems easy to change and re-integrate when circumstances require. If you want to know more about microservices and APIs, RapidAPI provides a useful summary

People-First Innovation 

Approaching innovation by putting people first isn’t some grandiose academic strategy. It just means shaping your technology around the way your people work.  

If people need to use enterprise software on the move, the CTO needs to make sure it can be accessed on a mobile device, by hiving off a function and putting it on an app, for example. 

As more people spend their working day in collaboration environments like Microsoft Teams, the CTO needs to make the experience of using enterprise software as similar to that as possible. For example, users should not need to leave Teams to interact with their organization’s ERP. 

If an organization is to survive and thrive in our new normal, it is, I believe, the CTO or CIO’s responsibility to put in place these enablers of adaptability. As one non-technology visionary, Charles Darwin, is often credited with having said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”