I now have a mental image of what might be encompassed by the job title “Manager, IT Innovation” – and it looks like this (well, not really – my mind is actually much messier):

Props to Paul Williams, who discussed tasks in innovation over at Corante, which formed the starting point for this. Paul will probably recognise a lot of the nodes in the mindmap above (created in Freemind BTW). Thanks also to James at Redmonk for his input on idea management – Corante and Redmonk both get a mention above as examples!

As discussed in my previous post, I’m not sure whether the “innovation” function should continue the idea until it is operational (which may be good for consistency of vision and momentum), or hand-over a project after a successful pilot (good because it allows us to go on with other ideas without getting bogged down in operational issues).

More thinking is under way, and as always, comments are appreciated.

[Update: Hopefully the image is a little clearer now and has some additions, and for those WITH Freemind, here is the “.mm”: Download ITInnovation.mm (Thanks for the comment, Earl)]

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9 thoughts on “More thinking on IT innovation

  1. Malcolm
    Good call – and that’s the point about providing value to the company in this new role … if the business doesn’t get any sense of value then they are unlikely to keep funding the role (not good for my income!).
    I do want to be careful about the overload, though – I took this role because I wanted to be out on the edge, rather than mainstream, so reverting to an operational would (for me) be defeating one of the purposes.of taking this on.
    As for “the more an IT function disassociates itself from the business that it services … ” – I believe that if IT is disassociated from the business, then it doesn’t service it at all. In this milieu, if I don’t serve the business, I don’t deserve to have the job. And, yes, sometimes that means passing up some of the more out-there opportunities.

  2. I would be very tempted to include implementation or as you say continue the idea until it is operational. I firmly believe that the more an IT function disassociates itself from the business that it services (assuming that IT is not the business of course) the less value it can deliver.
    By actually seeing ideas through to implementation not only do you become closer to the business (you are supplying the value – business loves this) but you become closer to other IT functions as you are seen as a deliverer and not an “ideas over the shoulder man”.
    It all depends, I guess, on the granularity of the ideas (small scale tweaks, complete new systems) but even if you do not see them all throught to implementation (hopefully you will have too many ideas to see them all through) I personally would do my best to select a subset and see them through.

  3. Earl – a pleasure; you’ve been on the blogroll for a while now. I’ve made the mindmap a little larger (and changed it from .jpeg to a .png), and added a download for the original file – so have a bash to your heart’s content!
    I don’t need to psychoanalyse the Intranet – I already KNOW it’s crazy (but yes I DO still need the paycheck for a while, so I might moderate the language)!
    Glad you like coComment – a couple of times I’ve been able to retrieve lost comments because they’ve been ‘saved’ to coCo. As you’ve noticed, I like it a lot.

  4. Another point, thanks for dropping by the blog the other day, apart from finding an interesting guy who is now on my aggregator, you’ve introduced me to FreeMind and CoComment whih I noticed in your sidebar.
    As a serial drive-by at many sites, I inevitably lose track of the omments, looks like a cool idea and a nice way to publciise the other blogs that I frequent as well.

  5. Ric.
    The FreeMind map is hard to read, why not make the .mm file downloadable so we can all have a ood look at it. Thanks for the pointer to Freemind BTW, which is turning out to be useful, if only for explaining to others what I have in mind.
    First Innovation you should make, change the name of the job. Call yourself “Disruption Central” and make your mission statement one word “Kaizen”
    As for James’ posting, I can’t believe that CEO’s still don’t believe that their people aren’t capable of innovation. And you are right, if they genuinely are NOT, fire the managers who employ them.
    Maybe your second step as innovation specialist should be to initiate innovation at the management level.
    Start with a psychoanalysis of the company website/ intranet and use it to confront them with the failures in their decision-making processes.
    Unless, of course, you still need that paycheck for a while.
    Good luck. Keep us posted.

  6. James – that is definitely messed up … mind you, the attitude might explain WHY they can’t find any innovation amongst their employees … it makes you wonder about the work environment, doesn’t it? Any company who believes that “our employees aren’t capable of innovation” either has the wrong employees (possible, but not most probable) or the wrong managers (much more likely).

  7. {On behalf of James: (we’re going to have to check this out – this is the second time a comment from James hasn’t stuck…)}
    i heard something really messed up the other day at IBM’s SOA gig.
    the new IBM CEO study – 750 CEOs talking about what is top of mind. a big trend- “collaborative innovation”… with the CEOs saying they needed to look outside “because our employees aren’t capable of innovation”
    i am a big fan of “innovation happens elsewhere” thinking – but the problem with most CEOs/companies is they dont listen to their own employees… if employee ideas were properly harvested, they might find innovation begins at home…

  8. Ric – looks like you’re getting a good handle on the innovation process. Another question for you to address is what’s the scope of your role in terms of areas for innovation. I might suggest looking at IT Innovation at 3 levels (using some simple – not very innovative examples to illustrate)
    1. IT Internal – helping the IT organization deliver IT’s existing “services” better, faster, cheaper – e.g. using an opensource version of an application to reduce costs. Note that at this level it may not be just about new technology but also about new and different ways of working within IT – you’ve already mentioned blogs and wikis.
    2. Business As Usual – helping business operations do things they already do better, faster, cheaper – e.g. integrating two previously separate applications say order processing and logistics thus avoiding manual workarounds and improving the speed and quality with which the business can serve customers.
    3. Business Innovation – using IT to help the business do new things (e.g. creating a web based customer self service portal)

  9. Paul – scope is the next item on the agenda. What makes this interesting at the moment is that I haven’t been GIVEN a scope – it’s up to me to define it (although I’m sure I’ll hit SOME limits!). My initial thoughts are to aim at having something in all three streams, either in process or in the pipeline. My preference/bias is toward your third point (and this is where our first effort is), but I don’t want to ignore payback possibilities wherever they occur.
    I think the difference between the levels you mention, is that the first two are tactical and efficiency-based (“doing the thing right”), and the third is strategic and effectivity-based (“doing the right thing”).

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