Andrew Batty, Technical Director: Ellipsys Technologies and Ellipsys Systems
Innovation is one of the fundamental pillars of success in the modern business world, if you want to grow your business, you need to innovate.
Unsurprising when it comes to innovation, creativity is key, but a lot of that creativity is not always found in boardrooms or group workshops. For innovation to succeed in a company it needs to be a prioritised and organised effort across all levels, not simply ideas driven by key leaders. However, fostering an innovative culture in a company can be challenging, as there are many things that can adversely affect it. One example is the need to focus on pressing day-to-day business issues.
This, while necessary, tends to push innovation to the side. Innovation also carries with it a measure of risk, and if a company has a culture of punishing failures, employees will quickly learn not to take risks and this will also lead to the stifling of innovation. Resistance to change, especially with regards to internal systems and processes, is also a major factor in slowing innovation.
At Ellipsys, all too often when we ask our clients the question “why do you do it that way”, we hear the words “that’s how we have always done it”, and in most cases, they want to keep doing it that way. When you don’t involve everyone, and management attempts to implement new ideas, no matter how innovative they may be, that resistance to change will make even the best ideas or systems difficult to implement.
THE IDEA SHARING PLATFORM
Good communication, as in many aspects of business, is paramount to innovation’s success. A starting point for every company should be an idea sharing platform or forum, where any employee can bring forward an idea and those ideas can be discussed by all. Those ideas should range from ways to do their jobs easier or more efficiently, to new products and services that the company could offer. These ideas can be turned into plans, and plans into collaborative experimentation. Some ideas will fail or may simply be ahead of the times, so do small scale experimentation or limited pilot programs first, and based on their success or failure, you can adjust and move forward to larger changes.
If you are unsure of what to focus on, looking at what other businesses are doing and where they are going, especially with regards to interacting with clients, is often a good indicator of where to start looking into innovation. But, be wary of simply following other companies’ ideas; your innovation should set you apart from the competition and raise brand awareness. It’s the managers’ or leaders’ role to lead the innovation process, starting by prioritising ideas and pursuing those that will offer the best benefit to the company. The first benefit people tend to look at, is time and cost saving, which for any company is key, but never overlook or discard ideas, that while they may not offer direct cost savings, they do offer improvements in staff happiness or client satisfaction. When it comes to helping our clients innovate, although Ellipsys is a technology focused company, we follow the concept that innovation is never just limited to technology or platform. True innovation
comes from business looking into all aspects, from service offerings or products to processes and systems, and most importantly, the human factor. Technology is there to support those aspects, not drive them.
Ellipsys always starts with understanding:
- understanding technology,
- understanding our client’s business,
- understanding their needs.
But also understanding the limitations that may exist either with technology or within our clients’ environments. One of the key areas we focus on first is measuring, if you have not measured something, how will you know its’ true impact? A good starting measurement for example:
- is how many people are needed?
- how long do they take to perform a task or run a process?
- and how much time, if any, is wasted in doing so?
Once you can quantify something, you will be able to determine if it needs to change and if it does and you implement the change, is it better? After that keep monitoring and improving.
FULL TEAM APPROACH
With the huge number of available technologies out there, looking at everything from cloud to mobile, it is an almost impossible task for only one or two people to keep up with the constant change and evolutions in technology. That’s why, at Ellipsys, we rely on our full team to help drive innovation and technology; both with our clients and internally within our own company. Technical team members in any company are naturally drawn to certain technologies or areas of interest that they are passionate about. At Ellipsys, as part of each team members’ work week, we set aside time and actively encourage our staff to investigate and research new technologies or changes, upgrades to existing ones, and how business trends are shaping the usage of those technologies globally.
With a good understanding of technology and our client’s needs, the next step for Ellipsys is to ask, is there a better way and how can we use technology to help us. One example of an area we regularly suggest to our clients, that offers great benefit quickly, is automation. Instead of having a team of people recapturing information from one system to another, and applying a multitude of business rules, automate the rules and the transfer of data between systems, and empower the staff to service clients better and use their time to make business decisions.
Once we find there is a better way and that change is needed, or something completely new is required to support new business, we look at how to implement those requirements and what technology is the best fit and making sure that the technology still resides inside our clients chosen architecture or platform. It is very easy to fall into the trap, when implementing new features or systems, to only focus on the latest and greatest cutting-edge technology, sometimes while discounting existing infrastructure, technologies, and systems already in place.
CHANGING EXISTING SYSTEMS
It is always worth considering that some of these systems have had a lot of time and effort put into them, they are well known to staff and may have extensive inhouse support experience already in place. In these cases, if the technology being used is current and supported and the systems stable, extending or adding to these systems may be a better option than implementing an entirely new system.
Sometimes more benefit and cost savings can be achieved by direct changes to an existing system, adding an automation component, or extending a Backoffice system to a new audience by means of a web portal or mobile application.
If, however, our clients are implementing something new, or do not wish to use their existing systems, then focusing on the latest technology is by far the better option, as it will give the most features and longevity to the system.
A truly innovative culture in a company needs passion and energy and will require more time and patience from the company’s leaders than you realise. But if you add a second culture of learning, and include all levels of business and supporting partners, you could create something truly brilliant for your company.