Transformational innovation for many businesses is inherently complex and, in many cases, high risk. It can be a big distraction, expensive in terms of cost and resource bleed from other key activities, must be managed carefully and will frequently not be successful. This article explores some key factors to work with when looking for transformational innovation.

What can companies do when seeking more transformational change and innovation programmes?

1.     Talent

It is important to put the right and best people on such projects and programmes of work. These are big ticket, strategic and will impact the whole business going forward. Only the best and brightest will do. Also, in an age of remote working, outsourcing and collaboration, it is essential for such projects that the core team sit and work together. The vision must be shared, the goals and team aligned and to achieve this everyone must be “near it, share in it and leadership must nurture this.” There are many examples of this, with businesses also recognising that often they have to go to the talent rather than trying to force the talent to come to them e.g. O2 Labs becoming a founding sponsor of TechHub in London and taking space there for developers who prefer to work in central London and amidst the tech scene there, rather than a corporate HQ in Slough.

2.     A separate program

The programme should be separated from core, day-to-day activities, but must align to overall strategy. This can be a big challenge, but to be successful this is critical. With the everyday distractions of BAU, projects get muddied, scope creep arises, changes are common, as are delays. However, being too far removed from the core can give rise to other challenges such as strategy drift or changes in business priority. Barclays recently launched its app Pingit for mobile payments. They implemented this strategy well, taking a senior executive, giving him license to chose his A-team, allowing him to take them away from BAU and as such they were able to deliver an app in 90 days that has seen over 100,000 downloads.

3.     Investments

The company must be prepared to make sustained and significant investment in the project and the team by way of time, money and additional resource. Senior leadership for whom this project must be important (or why do it!) must give time to understand and sign off on key milestones. Too often great ideas get pulled because momentum fades as other ‘priorities’ arise, the goal gets forgotten and the ‘next big thing’ for the business gets relegated to the cupboard.

4.     Process and tools

An end-to-end process for such engagements is critical, if the process is not rigorous then the risks becoming greatly exacerbated. The first step is how to find that one killer idea, the one big innovation that the business should invest in, getting this wrong will at best just waste time and resource, at worst could destroy the business. Many companies have invested heavily in areas that have ultimately led to ruin, this also highlights just how critical this is.

5.     Data, metrics and tracking

Defining goals upfront is so obvious that the frequency with which this is overlooked is astonishing. It is critical to define the key success factors, for Barclays in the above example speed of delivery was key as their management wanted it delivered within the 90 day target, quality was also key. To support this the business invested heavily for the time of the project and were able to measure the output, realize the benefits quickly and also gain the softer benefits of a really engaged workforce off the back of the project.

By Simon Hill

About the author

Simon Hill is CEO and co-founder of Wazoku, an idea software company, an Associate Director with the Venture Capital Firm FindInvestGrow and an active member of the London technology and entrepreneurial community.