Whether you’re “employee number four” at a startup or a middle-manager at a massive corporation, there’s a chance that your desire to innovate isn’t happening in hyper-speed. Learning how to scale your tech solutions is rarely limited by IT pros’ interest in testing drones, AI, biometrics, and other awesome gadgets at work. Instead, you’re probably limited by culture, budget, policies, and other boring factors.
According to CRN, a survey of enterprise CIOs revealed that while many departments have more money to spend in 2017, these funds are primarily allocated toward security and cloud computing programs. For startups, the goal of tech innovation is to achieve a balance between survival-related goals, like manageable growth, customer happiness, and business growth. For midsize organisations, there can be hosts of barriers, involving money, reluctant bosses, and limited time.
As an IT pro, your challenge is knowing how to scale your tech solutions, what should be changed, and when it’s best to migrate your bright idea over to the “maybe next year” list. Industry-wide research reveals that the most successful tech leaders bring soft skills to the table—including an understanding of when to follow the rules and when to push back, according to CIO. The sweet spot is being able to select the right technology for your company based on its size, age, and other firmographic factors without missing out on too much technology fun.
Think in terms of strategic benefit
We’ve seen some questionable technology emerge over the years. Consider the wireless pen mouse, smart refrigerators, and smartphones with detachable keyboards as prime examples of tech you’ll never purchase. Sure, these items might have specific use cases, but those are highly tactical. Most of today’s controversial innovations offer few user benefits, as they’re developed to complete single tasks.
The right kind of tech investments for companies of all sizes and ages are the ones with strategic value. You may not have any real need for robotic personal assistants, but maybe you could increase workplace efficiency with chatbots. James Capps, CTO at Trust Company of America, advises IT teams to avoid adopting “technology for the sake of technology,” and instead focus on innovating with solutions that make working easier. Ideally, your innovations might even drive value for your customers.
But, will it scale?
For the startups trying to develop a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), there’s pressure to think in terms of “will it scale?” A startup can’t easily change the technology behind their products once they secure clients and investors, which is why picking the right tech stack from the start is vital.
Corporate IT pros face different pressures than startup CTOs. If corporate apps fail beta testing, the entire business likely won’t crumble. The same obsessive attention to scalability and growth potential is valuable to any organisation. Before you invest in new security software or recommend the latest customer-facing app, ask yourself whether it could handle 10 times the expected demand and pressure.
Invest in nimble innovation
Technology scaling doesn’t always have to occur in leaps and bounds. Sometimes, the smartest way to enhance your existing tech is by making smaller adjustments. A study in successful innovation from Harvard Business Review revealed that the best corporate changes are rarely linear. Instead, organisations earning billions in sales generally make slight adjustments after initial product launches, or pivot when a test implementation doesn’t go according to plan.
Incremental innovation means investing in technology that allows you the freedom to learn—and fail—fast. Within your existing tech ecosystem and business models, look for places where you can make small improvements. Accenture research on incremental innovation shows that nimble technology testing can leave major impacts. For example, “Once the commercial feasibility of a new offering is proven, it is then adapted for developed markets.” Perfect your technology, and then make improvements. Invest in open innovation and testing, even if your company doesn’t have the resources to implement your idea on a larger scale.
Protect your time
Today’s average IT leader spends 29 percent of their time putting out tech fires and dealing with unexpected emergencies, according to 1E’s 2017 IT Incident and Response Report. You’ll have more freedom to innovate if your organisation’s IT department runs seamlessly; understanding how your time is being spent could be the first step to managing this.
Operations issues—including unplanned outages and troubleshooting—take up nearly 60 percent of IT’s time. However, this figure is likely to vary significantly between organisations. For some companies, too much time spent answering help desk tickets might reveal the need for better user interfaces. For others, investing in smarter alerts and self-healing printers can mitigate the endless troubleshooting of network endpoints.
To scale your tech solutions, fix your problems first. Every IT pro needs to push for innovation in the areas that prevent your business from being optimally strategic. If you’re spending the entire day reminding the accounting team how to navigate an approval workflow or you’re having to fix the printer on a daily basis, it’s clear that upgrades are necessary. Once those issues are under control, you can think about investing in the latest tech innovations; those that will drive your business towards growth and success.