13.03.2019

Don’t let integration slow down your innovation project

by Alex Wauters

A while ago we asked several Innovation Managers what their top concerns were when starting an innovation project. Do thoughts of not releasing on a target date keep them up at night? Would they rather keep the project within budget compared to other factors? Or are they thinking ahead on how the project would integrate with their core and legacy systems?

We were happy to learn that they were less worried about integration and more on launching a successful innovation project first. Only about 10% selected it as a major concern before the project starts. I’ll go through some of the reasons why in this post.

The odds are stacked against you

When you are running an innovation project, the odds are stacked against you. You’re facing uncertainties. What do your users need? Will the product work out in the market? Do you have a good grip on the new technologies you plan to use? You need feedback quickly and test your riskiest assumptions first.

As Wim mentioned in an earlier post, you should protect your team from anything which may slow them down. If you run innovation project the same way as your other IT projects and prioritize integration, you will lose the speed and flexibility crucial for testing out your idea. Spending time and money on integration with your systems and fitting the project in your IT landscape may be all for naught when you need to shelve the idea, or find yourself with limited flexibility when you want to change it. Or worse, you may forget to focus on learning what works first.

Accelerate

So let your innovation team choose the tools best suited for them, even if it means they won’t use the same technologies or services as the rest of your organization. The team will work much faster and efficient when they are able to provision infrastructure or services (through the cloud & SaaS providers) themselves and use what technology or tools works best for the team and the use case at hand. If you want the numbers which prove this empowerment approach works, we heartily recommend the Accelerate: Building and Scaling High-Performing Technology Organizations book. Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble, and Gene Kim researched for four years on what helps teams achieve high velocity and flexibility in software delivery. As you will want to validate your innovation idea fast, you will need it.

If not now, when?

So when should you start to worry about integrating the innovation project into your core systems? The time is right after you have validated your idea and can prove you have reached product/market fit and its time to scale up. This is when you will want to transform the idea into a new business which your organization can support.

You may decide to keep the technologies or services used by the project, in which case your innovation project was a successful IT experiment in addition to validating your business idea. Or you may decide to refactor them out, if you believe they do not offer a significant enough advantage for the next phase of the project.

So please don’t deprive your innovation team of the speed and flexibility which they sorely need to hit success. Integration comes later, after you have learned what’s the right thing to build. Then start building things right.

Thanks again for reading this far. I hope you can use some of our tips in your innovation approach. Please like or share if you wish to inspire others! And feel free to give us a shout if you have any questions or remarks.