We’re facing times of unprecedented change. And to the progressive leader who isn’t satisfied with just “keeping up”, these are uncharted waters.
There are two types of change. The first type is change in response to external pressures, like the onset from the COVID-19 pandemic. It leaves businesses with little room for choice – they had to respond to market uncertainty and crumbling supply chains just to keep the lights on. Those who overcame this hurdle (and especially those who didn’t) recognized that the ability to react swiftly and accurately in the face of disruption cannot be overlooked.
This type of change may be enough to keep your business afloat, but simply being reactive will never be enough to take things to the next level – to establish your business as a force to be reckoned with.
This brings us to the second type of change – the change that you initiate yourself. In other words, innovation.
If the pandemic taught the business world one thing, it’s that companies cannot wait until disaster strikes to transform their business and the processes it relies on to function. In fact, this global disruption has revealed gaps in organizations’ technology and culture that hold them back from full operational agility. The good news is that these insights are actionable and filling in these gaps can result in a real competitive advantage.
My team at Quick Base sponsored a research report conducted by Harvard Business Review Analytics Services about a dual-track approach to digital transformation, which combines enterprise-wide transformation efforts with a second-track series of efforts that addresses any remaining gaps.
What we found is that it’s this second track, known as rapid-cycle innovation or innovation at the edge, that makes all the difference to your business.
Defining Rapid-Cycle Innovation
For transformation to be truly successful, digital capabilities need to be implemented in every corner of your company. Traditional digital transformation strategies often overlook the edges of the business, meaning that it’s likely that employees are still relying on manual labor and outdated legacy systems for essential-to-business workflows and processes.
When used in conjunction with enterprise-oriented efforts, rapid-cycle innovation can address these technological and cultural shortfalls in your company’s transformation strategy.
Rapid-cycle innovation differs from your other digital transformation efforts in one essential aspect: it relies on a resource that your company may be taking for granted – business professionals turned citizen developers. This empowers business professionals outside of IT to propose and create new applications that modernize existing workflows and processes.
By providing those closest to the work with the tools to innovate, the result is a comprehensive collection of automated workflows created by the people who know the work best. Their hands-on, day-to-day involvement with the processes gives them unique insights into which modernizations yield the best outcomes.
While enterprise-oriented digital transformation may be a multiple yearlong undertaking, rapid-cycle innovation through citizen development can achieve quick and targeted wins for your business in a matter of days.
A Future of Collaboration: IT + Business
Rapid-cycle innovation – the second half of dual-track transformation – allows us to imagine a future where IT and business teams can come together in a strategic partnership to develop unique workflow solutions that integrate with the organization-wide approach.
Technological advancements like low-code empower business leaders to become citizen developers and resolve issues for themselves where IT resources lack the bandwidth to support – all while providing a framework so that IT can ensure governance and security compliance and unite business applications with the rest of the organization’s tech-stack.
This partnership encourages IT to collaborate with on-the-ground subject matter experts to bring speed and agility to the entire enterprise. Not only is collaboration essential to navigate today’s post-pandemic landscape, but it also directly contributes to achieving business goals.
Of the 400 business and IT leaders surveyed in the Harvard Business Review Analytics Services report, 59% of respondents say rapid-cycle innovation can be “very important” to enhancing customer satisfaction, 53% see it as important for more effective use of enterprise data and analytics, and another 53% see it as a factor for improved product/service quality.