Cross-Functional Communication Fosters Innovation
Innovation is not a one-time effort. A structured process that crosses department lines should be embedded within an organization to support continuous innovation. Recently, I have had several conversations with colleagues and discussions at seminars on this very topic. I observed that companies still have difficulty developing innovative business solutions. Phrases I heard from discouraged persons included: “Other departments don’t understand what I want” and “These results are not in line with my expectations” and “we cannot sell what they created.” And when someone actually claimed successful innovation at their organization, upon closer inspection it became clear that there wasn’t really innovation, but rather just a better optimization.
eCommerce/e-Business Process Outsourcing (eBPO) triggers for innovation are: frequent implementation of new services, connecting to new/evolving markets, adapting to new lifestyles. For eBPO success, a state of constant business-model innovation is required and needs to be second nature. In this industry, marketing, operations and IT are highly intertwined and cannot function independently of each other. Therefore, innovation can’t be the sole responsibility of an isolated R&D department. And with IT an integrated part of eBPO solutions, the IT department should be involved in the (business) innovation process as well.
To make innovation possible in your organization, you need to bring all departments together with IT and engineering and enable them to work together. As more companies work with external (sourcing) partners or with globally spread departments, good planning and communication capabilities are paramount for all involved participants.
To organize this level of collaboration:
- Select a moderator
- Set clear expectations of the collective responsibilities
- Marketing and sales should present on trends and changing client/customer needs
- IT (internal and/or sourcing partners) should identify new technologies and capabilities
- Allow all other functional group to focus on their area of expertise
- Schedule recurring meetings for periodic reporting on progress and deliverables
When innovation is an integrated component of your eCommerce solution, it sets additional requirements in regard to your internal and external partners and your sourcing strategy. Is your preferred partner capable of coping with this constant change? Make sure you keep this mind when selecting a partner for your eCommerce solution. And once the partner has been chosen, it is preferable to define the collaboration on innovation in the contract and include the procedure in the statement of work
What processes do you have in place to support innovation in your organization?