05 September 2022

Place your bets! Six rules that govern smart innovation

By Steve Martin, Head of Channels

In my previous channel innovation blog post, we identified the IT partner community’s critical role in creating business benefits from maturing megatrends is similar to running up a down escalator. Part 2 of this critical conversation presents a ‘playbook’ of sorts on how to shift focus from status quo to disruption.

Most people can agree innovation is a good thing, but as a business leader, how do you actually ‘do’ it? Obviously, it’s never a simple proposition and requires the right mix of people, ideas, resources and – sometimes – the good fortune of being in the right place at the right time.

Most companies have innovation agendas. Do you?

Recent Innovation in Australian Business research from ABS, found 52% of surveyed businesses were “innovation active” with 36% of that majority collaborating and/or using a fee-for-service model for innovation.

Which camp are you in? Not only do channel partners need to innovate with solutions development in their own business but there is significant opportunity in being directly involved in their customers’ innovation agendas.

How do you approach innovation? How can you support your customers in their innovation agendas? These are critical questions.

Six of the best

Over a long career in the IT industry, I’ve seen incredible change and innovation. I’ve observed patterns that defined whether new ideas are followed by spectacular success or devastating failure.

Based on this experience, I believe the following six rules help to provide structure to innovation efforts in the IT channel community and increase the probability of successful disruption through application of new technologies.

The good news is that this thought process applies to organisations of any size, in any industry. It relates to innovation within your own business and to supporting customers to innovate in theirs.

  1. Be selective. Rather than investing in every thought bubble, place three to five bets in different areas where you know customers are striving for change and improvement. Think carefully about what you really want to be known for in the next 5-10 years and let that inform your wagers.

  2. Empower others. Encourage your team to take ownership of those different areas where you have identified opportunity. Invest your human and financial resources across each of them. Make it the team’s job to test and understand target markets with a defined objective to ensure it makes business sense.

  3. Get specific. Make sure you identify and understand exactly what business objective you are trying to support. “I want to grow my market share in the manufacturing sector” is a noble ambition, but not a specific bet when it comes to innovation investment. “I want to help manufacturing companies to digitise supply chains with solutions supporting lean warehousing.” is a more specific and achievable bet for the right company.

  4. Talk to customers. It seems obvious, but it’s often overlooked. You’ll only get to ‘specific’ business requirements if you engage customers and understand their pain points in the present and over the next three, five or 10 years. How can those pain points be addressed by the megatrends maturing before our eyes? What you can realistically deliver?

  5. Bet responsibly. Cardinal rule of responsible betting is that you don’t lay down what you can’t afford to lose. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. The same rules apply here. It might take a few gambles before you get a decent return, so you budget for multiple innovation projects at once or over time. See also: fail fast, fail small, learn from your mistakes and move onto the next idea.

  6. Partner well. We’ve been talking about the tech skills shortage and how it’s likely to be the single biggest inhibitor to innovation in Australia over the course of this decade. Make sure you build the right ecosystem of interconnected partners and service providers to help you achieve true business flexibility and agility. This applies equally to innovation projects as well as business as usual.

Related content: How strategic partnerships can help solve the tech skills shortage


Can we help?

I consider my role as Head of Channels at NEXTDC a very privileged one. I get a glimpse at what hundreds of our partners are doing. The mix and depth of innovation I observe daily is incredibly inspiring.

Whether that be supporting organisational objectives to reduce costs, improve safety, automate processes, boost productivity or enhancing customer experience, successful innovators take a clinical approach to where they research and where they invest.

The more we understand about your focus, your goals and your expertise, the more we can potentially help by sharing some high-level ideas on what else is happening in our extensive ecosystem.

There are many introductions we have fostered within our partner community that have gone on to have sustained success together, so talk to us and we can help you collaborate strategically to accelerate innovation agendas.

Reach out to NEXTDC to start a conversation about how we can work together to create value for your customers and keep you moving towards the top of the down escalator.