Anna Frazzetto's Blog

Digital Innovations and Technology Solutions

Balancing Business Vision & Technology Limitations

What Outsourcing Teaches You about Strategic Innovation

Did I just write "technology limitations?" It feels like heresy to even hint that there are limits on technology at a time when it is rapidly changing everything we do and shaping a future that promises clean energy, smart houses, Mars colonies, ubiquitous robots and artificial intelligence. But it's true. Technology has limitations, and the debate over those limits often occurs at the divide between business and technology teams.

Business leaders have great hope and expectations for what technology can deliver while IT teams often have to play the role of spoiler, reducing expectations with a pragmatic look at what is possible with the systems, budgets and resources in place. So how do businesses keep innovating despite concrete boundaries? Can technology realistically embrace the creativity and ambitions of business teams and make them a reality? Working in enterprise IT outsourcing, I have long enjoyed a front row seat to the push and pull that can happen when the big visionary ideas of a business organization collide with practical technical realities. The good news is that innovation is still happening, and it's still impressive. The businesses I see strategically innovating often adhere these best practices, which have made them very good at balancing IT ambition and IT realism.

1. Get IT Out & Into Everything
Just as technology is everywhere today, IT experts need to be everywhere. Where it once was a kingdom unto its own, now IT needs to be dispersed and touching all aspects of the business. IT team members need to spend substantial time in marketing, finance, operations, accounting, sales, and legal. They need to see firsthand how business teams are leveraging technology and what they need do to more. Businesses with IT leaders and team members that move fluidly between technology and business units are building the key foundation to success in innovation: a shared understanding of business needs and goals.  

2. Embrace Bold Creativity
I have seen many examples of businesses that choose to submit ideas for innovation to technology teams rather than enfold IT in the brainstorming process. In these cases, IT often plays the role of critic--looking for flaws within the ideas rather than working to shape and advance them. But there is a reason the world adores brands like Apple and Google. They stun us with their boldness, their leadership and their willingness to take risks with technology. Innovative businesses tear down the walls between IT and business to increase the flow of ideas. They invite creativity to flow in from all directions, especially from the technologists who best understand the potential new tools or systems can offer a business. The earlier technology leaders and team members are brought into strategic and creative planning, the better chance innovation has. 

3. Outsource IT Where You Can
To give IT team members the time needed to understand and support business goals and innovation, you have to get some work off their plate. There is too much maintenance, administration and support that comes with the vast amount of technologies residing in businesses today. Today's most innovative businesses are also some of today's most strategic outsourcers. They know exactly what they can take off the plate of their IT teams and they know exactly what has to stay.

While the challenges of bridging the gap between IT and the business are very old news today, I see progress everywhere. Technology has helped us by working its way into everything we do. What business decision doesn't involve technology today? As a result, business leaders are getting more technical by the minute and technology folks are becoming more interested in the direction and ambitions of businesses. We're all getting into each other's business a little more and--as long as strong innovation is the byproduct--I say we keep at it.