One of the many great advantages that cloud technology offers is that the cost of failure is very low. In the dot com days of the late 90’s, if you wanted to build an application or website, you would make significant investments to buy hardware and software in the hope for success. Today, a venture capitalist will likely show you the door if you say you need funds to buy hardware. With the capabilities available in the cloud, you simply don’t need to make those large up front investments to innovate.
The rise of cloud technology has fueled a new explosion of innovation. You only need to look at some of today’s born-in-the-cloud companies—think Facebook, Uber and Airbnb for proof.
This innovation isn’t only happening in Silicon Valley. Enterprise companies are finding that the cloud allows new services to be created relatively quickly and without a long trial-and-error process. If something doesn’t work, it can be easily adapted or shut down fast—at very little cost—without spending weeks retooling or decommissioning hardware and hosting environments.
While the accelerated pipeline of innovation is great for companies, making the transition from innovation to reality is non-trivial in the enterprise. User expectations, security policies, and internal controls all introduce a layer of complexity when you move from innovation to production. Somebody — whether it’s the business or IT — has to industrialize and implement the successful innovative ideas to make them production-ready. This is part of the innovator’s dilemma.
Transforming innovation to reality in the enterprise can be simplified by following some key principles.
- Know your user. Today’s businesses are centered more toward the user experience than ever before. That means you need to know your audience, whether it’s large and broad or small and niche, tech-savvy or business focused, and so on. Whatever the user group looks like, you need to ensure that what you’re creating meets their expectations.
- Know usage patterns and demand. In addition to knowing the user, you need to understand when and how they are going to use the service. Cloud environments provide tremendous flexibility but you need to know what to expect. Launching a short-term digital marketing program for the super bowl requires a very different approach from enabling new employee mobile applications
- Have the right security measures in place. Understand how your offering is being used (again, tying back to users and usage patterns) to ensure that you have the right security controls, role-based access and privileges (among other things) in place.
- Have a set of “digital ethics.” You need to have a clear process for managing data collection and processing to ensure you are appropriately managing user expectations and privacy. Which data is collected, how it’s stored, and how it’s analyzed should align up front with users’ expectations. One simple rule to observe is that just because you can collect or analyze certain forms of data, doesn’t mean you should. You also don’t want users to be surprised by the amount of data you collect or what you do with it – transparency is key.
- Understand operations. It may seem simple, but to have a successful cloud-based offering, it’s important to have absolute clarity regarding who’s responsible for running it appropriately. Is it the IT department? A business unit (or multiple units)? Is it a third-party provider? Who is monitoring and maintaining the product to ensure it runs consistently with users’ needs and expectations? If something isn’t working right, you need to know who to call.
The transition from experimentation to production centers disproportionately on the user experience. If the user has a bad experience, no matter how game-changing the innovation may be, it will likely not succeed.
Make sure the innovation is simple, intuitive, and then tie it back to the five principles, and you will increase successful transitions from innovative experimentation to reliable customer experiences.