Struggling to innovate at scale? Time to rethink your IT estate

Successful innovation unlocks value from the organization, creates new business models and customer propositions, and helps enterprises overcome disruption.

Dr. Bhaskar Ghosh Dec 20th 2018 A-A+

The idea that innovation is critical to business is nothing new.

Successful innovation unlocks value from the organization, creates new business models and customer propositions, and helps enterprises overcome disruption.

However, for innovation to be of benefit, it needs to scale. Innovations that remain small-scale, or take place adjacent to the core business, simply won’t have the desired transformational impact. Businesses therefore need to reimagine their IT systems to enable rapid, simple and seamless innovation. 

Future systems

As always, the first step is to think of last step – the desired outcome. Accenture believes that the intelligent enterprise of tomorrow is one in which applications on their own are less important than their role in an interconnected and ubiquitous web of super-smart applications, data, and infrastructure.

These ‘living systems’ have been liberated from static IT stacks and legacy data centers and use flexible enterprise architectures to give businesses exactly what they need, when they need it. Agility is built into the core of such living systems, making scalability a more organic process where innovations easily and quickly grow to the required size. 

Most businesses are still struggling with the pace of disruption, but particularly those with legacy ways of working and applications built for another era. Even those that have embraced the need to make their core systems future-ready face a fundamental challenge of bridging them with the new systems that allow true innovation at scale. So, what can businesses do to make their IT estate future ready?

Smarter systems for better innovation

A good place to start is with areas most important to the business: smoothing out friction and addressing key pain points. To help with this, companies need to leverage innovative technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain and microservices to make systems self-healing and adaptable. Concurrently, organizational change may be a necessary precursor to solving significant business challenges. In this case, it makes sense to start with the areas that have the most immediate impact on profitability. 

When it comes to AI, however, organizations need to understand the need to deploy AI responsibly. That means embracing transparency and explaining the decisions and actions AI takes. It also means allowing humans to take back control when necessary: essential in avoiding any adverse effects on business performance, brand reputation, regulatory compliance, and, of course, human beings themselves.

Data is critical

The second big area to look at is data. Good data is critical to achieving innovations worth scaling and plays an important role in unravelling the IT stack. The more high-quality data you have, and the easier this data can flow between the organization, partners and customer applications, the better you will be able to scale innovations.

Companies should therefore look to define data-driven development and testing processes that account for the data-dependent nature of adaptable systems. Concurrently, every organization must ramp up its data integrity efforts to tackle the inaccurate, manipulated, and biased data sets that lead to corrupted business insights. 

Panoply provides an example of how new data processes can help innovate at scale. This data platform company uses machine learning and natural language processing to model and automate activities performed by data engineers, server developers, and data scientists.

By automatically aggregating data as it streams in, the platform allows organizations to analyze everything in seconds, regardless of scale and without the need for data configuration, schemas, or modelling. The approach saves thousands of lines of code and countless hours of debugging. 

This is a perfect example of another key element of future systems: radically human experiences. Innovations today need to be tied closely to the needs of customers as only relevant, personalized experiences will be able to compete. Breakthroughs in data, combined with AI, will unlock a new generation of personalized experiences that address “markets of one” in a scalable way. Imagine: a curated grocery shopping experience tailored to your dietary preferences. Such human-centric innovations will prove the most successful in the years ahead. 

A new enterprise innovation engine

So, how can you build thriving systems to scale new innovations in a world of constant change? The answer is clear: recognize how systems are changing and human + machine collaboration becoming more important, build a flexible ‘boundaryless’ system that creates space for ideas to flourish, and use AI and other data-driven technology to make systems adaptable and reduce friction. The result will be a better innovation engine that can enable new ideas to scale faster than ever.

Dr. Bhaskar Ghosh, Group CEO, Accenture Technology Services

Disclaimer: This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the contributing authors and not of IDG Media and its editor(s).