When the rubber meets the road: The sweet spot for innovation in digital transformation
Digital transformation is separating the winners from the losers. More than ever, innovation is critical. The biggest innovations today are happening where the rubber meets the road, where employees on the front lines are grappling with challenges. Given the right tools, these individuals have the potential to truly innovate by creating the solutions to these challenges that they alone intimately understand.
Innovation happens when a smart, impatient, motivated individual—a problem solver—has reached a work rut that they cannot escape with the systems and processes being used. As current technology fails to keep up with the changing workplace, this problem solver imagines a solution that doesn’t yet exist, which is the definition of creativity, and then they apply that creativity to design that solution. The result is a new idea or unique solution to a complex problem. That’s innovation and it can happen in the workplace just as it does on a larger scale.
Organisational leaders can help foster and grow a workplace culture where creativity and innovation are surfaced and giving problem solvers the tools to innovate. And this approach can play a huge role role in company-wide success.
Innovation at the line of business
As a business leader, you are often focused on how things are going at the top, where the company-wide decisions are being made. However, there’s enormous opportunities happening at the boots-on-the-ground, operational level that the problem solver is uniquely positioned to address. They probably have unique ideas because they’re living it.
The modern workplace has changed, and as a result, employees need to be more agile and more flexible. To thrive and tap into innovation and creativity at all levels, organisational leaders need to provide guidance and support for these ideas to grow.
The right tools and support
Digital transformation promises new standards of performance for your business. By leveraging mobile technology, you should be getting your job done faster, with better insights, and growing your business. You’ve been promised all this, so why does it feel like things are getting harder than before?
Maybe the technologies you have in your business have reached their limit. You’re surrounded by appliance apps that do important things — accounting, email, file sharing, etc. — but, they’re not driving your business forward. That’s because appliance apps can only take you so far.
This was the case for April Riordan, director of business operations for Wings Unlimited, a meeting, incentive and event company executing events worldwide. Wings has been very successful at delivering unique, one-of-a-kind experiences based on the expertise of their team and on their detailed knowledge of 3,500 vendor locations worldwide.
Because last-minute changes are inevitable, the Wings team need their data wherever they happen to be in the world. All of an event’s data – the flight manifests, the hotel reservations, the attendee lists, food requirements, VIP status, the meal plans, the vendor contacts, the gift deliveries, and much more – were kept in a massive binder – “the Binder” –, which employees carried to each venue.
Old ways make way for modern tools
The Binder wasn’t the fastest, most professional response to a customer question. It didn’t communicate changes instantly from customer request to Wings event engineer to vendor. And the Binder only handled half of the company’s business – it didn’t address operations or business development. What’s more, director of sourcing Erin McMurray was tracking ALL of her data in spreadsheets. To comb through her data and generate a single customer proposal took hours.
In short, Wings was finding itself at the edge of their limits, hampering their ability to engage new customers and grow. Paper, email and electronic spreadsheets left Wings Unlimited in a work rut; they had exhausted the capabilities of their appliance apps, and progress stalled.
Modern platforms are emerging that not only enable professional developers but can also be used by those without coding experience to quickly and easily create their own digital solutions. These tools can give employees a sense of empowerment as they look to find ways to improve operations – which, in turn, often lead to even more innovation in other areas. And this gives leaders a way to empower non-tech people a way to innovate and create solutions. A workplace innovation platform is one of these.
That’s what happened for April at Wings Unlimited. One of her clients suggested she make her own software using a workplace innovation platform to replace the Binder. Starting with a starter template, April and her team built themselves an iPad app to manage events, logistics, rooming lists and transportation manifests. After their initial success, they worked with a professional developer to create another app to manage the thousands of vendors Erin works with and generate proposals for clients. As a result, Wings has been able to double its workforce while continuing to provide high-quality event experiences, and focusing on growth and innovation in their business.
All of their digital information is now immediately available when a customer asks for it.
A joint effort
A workplace innovation platform in the hands of your problem solvers – making this part of your employee-driven culture – will help drive company success. Improving operations at the micro level can have an impact on other operations in a sort of ripple effect. There’s also the aspect of culture – empowered workers tend to be happier and more efficient workers.
Empowering the workplace problem solvers to quickly respond and build their own solutions is what’s needed to drive company success and get out of the work rut.
For employee-powered innovation to succeed, though, individuals need the backing of business leaders, and that includes the tools to literally bring their vision to life with customised software. The story of Wings Unlimited is the story of many companies that hit the limit of what appliance apps could do, took a leap forward and innovated to meet their own needs. That’s where the rubber meets the road, and where empowered employees can drive the company toward the next level of success.
Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their use-cases? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data Expo and Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam and explore the future of enterprise technology.
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