Innovations
June 28, 2012

Innovation must be planned

In a knowledge-based global economy, continuous innovation is crucial to enable effective and efficient service delivery in the public sector and competitive advantage in the private.

Organizations are in the eye of a perfect storm with an opportune convergence of culture, knowledge and technology.

Culturally, today’s well-educated knowledge-workers (or “creative” class) intuitively collaborate and take the use of technology for granted. Challenge is their mantra and, unlike their industrial age predecessors, they thrive on being told what to do, but not how to do it.

Corporate information and knowledge assets are increasing at an exponential rate and enterprises have the choice of managing and leveraging their holdings or being swamped by them. For example, the consistent definition of a citizen in government is abstract (compared to an actual truck) but is far more valuable when it comes time to modernize services to government clients. Also, ignorance of information held by the enterprise is not a defence, not to Parliament, the corporate board of directors or the judiciary.

Information and communications technology continues to evolve but the underlying concepts of its use are stable. The aim is to make all of the resources/services on the network available to stakeholders. Today, the Internet and World Wide Web are mature and everywhere. “Cloud” is the latest way of implementing a shared services environment and is as much a cultural phenomenon as it is technical one. Essentially, everyone can share services with everyone else providing they adhere to enterprise standards. In government the latter should be “open” vice proprietary.

Making it happen
Given enterprise talent, innovation will happen regardless – it is just whether it will be useful or not. What is required is a combination top-down, bottom-up approach to implementation.

For top-down, the first step is to adopt/adapt an existing planning framework, such as the Balanced Scorecard, Strategy Maps, U.S. Federal or Australian Enterprise Architecture Framework (FEA/AGA), or TOGAF, for example, and use the integrated hybrid as a planning skeleton to which everyone can add their contribution. Also, the project management and operations management functions have to be jointly involved with the planners through an integrated governance framework.

In government it is crucial to use open, shareable standards and methodologies – an enterprise repository should be created to communicate and share resources with all stakeholders. The repository should also include existing resources to avoid re-invention of the wheel as well as reduce risk by using something that already works.

Then, the enterprise has to create and communicate a business vision/strategy and a clear definition of what constitutes business value in the enterprise. The adapted framework will provide a structured approach to ensure that enterprise objectives, often couched in the creation of enterprise capabilities, are realizable and take into account all of the factors, especially culture, information and technology.

The next step is to conduct a gap analysis and create a high-level implementation and migration plan that recognizes what has to be done, especially what services are needed to support the incremental creation of the capabilities. These services are often couched in reference models as in the Municipal Reference Model and Governments of Canada Strategic Reference Model and the Australian business, service and technical reference models. Business, information and technical interoperability standards should also be included.

At this point, “what” has to be done has been defined and now the enterprise knowledge-workers can start their task of creatively figuring out “how” to implement in a collaborative manner using the repository to create a state of shared situational awareness of what already exists, what is needed and what is under development. This avoids duplication of effort and allows flexibility to take advantage of opportunities.

This cycle is regularly refreshed to ensure that the top-down business strategy and plans (communicated using the organization-specific enterprise architecture framework) and the bottom-up implementation remain fit for purpose.

The potential to innovate is greater than ever but will require a disciplined approach to create an enterprise driven by a shared vision and collaboratively implemented through a shared awareness. Such an enterprise innovation environment will attract bright minds and enable effective and efficient service delivery; it is up to the leadership to make it happen.

Robert Weisman, MSc, PMP, PEng, CD, is CEO of Build The Vision. He is involved in the formulation of global standards and methodologies.

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