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Generating growth with technology
Technology and the ability to innovate can determine whether a modern business succeeds or fails. During uncertain economic times, business leaders have to be canny about extracting maximum value from every part of their business. The quality of a firm’s technology systems and freedom to innovate can be the factors that make or break them.
On a macro-economic level too, the ability and willingness of governments to enable innovation to flourish in their economy will be key to ensuring long-term competitiveness. As the UK emerges from its deepest recession since the 1930s, a race is on to find new ingredients of growth. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, recently pointed out that 6 per cent of high-growth firms generated over half of net employment growth in the UK between 2005 and 2008.
The public sector cuts will now begin to bite and the private sector is expected to employ those who find themselves out of work. Innovation will play a key role to in creating these new jobs.
Look to the future
The difficulty with recessions is that while they focus the business brain on the essentials for survival, responses to straitened times can often be short-termist – rightly businesses focus on immediate survival and may not have the capacity or inclination to think too much further ahead. And planning for the future in such uncertain times is difficult, if not impossible. But taking the short-term view can store up significant problems for the future. While it may seem sensible to cut expensive innovations that may not yield value in the short term, competitors are sometimes playing the longer game, ensuring a competitive advantage for many years to come.
New technologies such as cloud computing are changing the way that organisations are approaching their IT systems. IT never stands still and after decades of investment in IT infrastructure, organisations can be reluctant to change existing ways of working. But just as enabling companies to conduct business online has been at the forefront of IT policies over the last 10 to 20 years, ensuring IT security will be a key driver of change over the coming decade.
These are some of the conclusions set out in a recent Management Consultancies Association (MCA) report and set of essays by MCA member firms, ‘Servant not master: How technology will generate growth’, which can can be downloaded from www.mca.org.uk
Technology and innovation
What do businesses need to do to stay ahead of the technology and innovation curve?
You should identify what cloud computing opportunities exist for your organisation and ensure there is a clear business case before committing to such a move. Also, you need to be clear about the role of technology in your organisation and then employ an appropriate operating model that fits your needs.
Ensure cyber-security is at the heart of your business’s IT infrastructure, and that mobile technology devices can connect into your organisation without posing a security risk.
You should identify your organisation’s blockers of innovation and foster an environment where innovation can flourish. Furthermore, you should identify whether using product development methodologies such as Product Lifecycle Management can benefit your organisation, for example, helping it to adapt to new regulatory frameworks or minimise development costs.
Take a leaf out of Google’s book and ensure change plans exist well before implementation dates and that there is clear accountability for delivery of change within the organisation.
Finally, don’t throw away best practices but use the next practices to inform their use, and don’t allow process to drown innovation; use process to drive innovation.
Management consultants add value to organisations in many ways. Pioneering research by the MCA has identified three critical ways in which consultants add value.
Firstly, they provide specialist knowledge that helps clients take better decisions. This may take several forms, from bringing know-how from other sectors or countries, to technical skills in specific areas. Knowledge from elsewhere and new sources of information provide clients with a more informed perspective; evidence gives them the confidence to act in difficult situations.
Secondlu, their experience in project delivery helps clients execute their plans more effectively and efficiently. Consulting firms can field teams of people at very short notice to help with new initiatives, giving projects momentum and internal credibility in their crucial early stages. They bring tried-and-tested methods of working that represent the collective experience gained from working on similar projects elsewhere and that help reduce the risk of failure.
And thirdly, the skills of individual consultants improve the capability and teamwork of managers in client organisations. The skills of individual consultants to act as agents of change or to challenge long-standing assumptions may be crucial, but so too is their ability to offer unbiased advice and to handle sensitive organisational issues with tact and diplomacy.
The following case study is a practical example of how the consulting industry is assisting companies across all sectors to stay ahead of the technology and innovation curve.
Staging the London 2012 Olympic Games requires completion of one of Europe’s biggest ever and most innovative construction projects. A consortium of three industry-leading construction companies called CLM was contracted by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) as delivery partner for construction of the 202-hectare Olympic Park. From zero IT capability on day one, CLM and the ODA needed to rapidly develop technology structures and systems that usually take years to evolve.
After an intense mobilisation phase CLM needed consulting expertise to help establish a more strategic framework for joint delivery of the programme with the ODA. IT had to improve performance and rapidly meet the needs of the business.
Any lack of cohesion would seriously threaten construction of the Olympic Park. In very high-pressured and intense conditions, Atos Consulting helped CLM work with the ODA to create an accelerated high-performing, robust and agile IT function. The scale of the challenge was to establish all the IT infrastructure and systems for a FTSE 250-sized company – from a standing start. All this was achieved in a uniquely complex and demanding stakeholder environment, with an immovable deadline and against a backdrop of the UK’s highest-profile project.
IT made an inestimable contribution to the success of the construction programme and continues to be an invisible enabler. Integrated systems contributed to the construction of the Olympic stadium starting three months ahead of schedule and at a forecast saving of £30m, and to the construction of the aquatics centre starting two months ahead of schedule.