An Interview on Innovation

Interview with Anuj Anand, Ausenco’s Director Application Solutions, Technology Services and Solutions

What is innovation and why is it important?

According to the business dictionary, innovation can be defined as “The process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay. To be called an innovation, an idea must be replicable at an economical cost and must satisfy a specific need”.

I would complement this definition with a critical point about frequent misconceptions of the term. People often think innovation happenson its own. To that end, you only need to sit around and let new ideas just pop into your head. Whereas, in fact, innovation is a hard and messy intellectual process with no shortcuts. Bringing it to reality is even harder and takes passionate people that work tirelessly to change the status quo.

Innovation is critical to success in the competitive environment within which we operate. It involves delivering a better outcome to our clients and paves the way to work faster while improving the quality of our product or deliverable.

You mentioned misconceptions around innovation earlier. What are some of the traps companies fall into while innovating?

In a time when innovation is the name of the game, and with markets more competitive than ever, an onus needs to be placed on the “Right Innovation”. A trap that businesses regularly fall into with everyone trying to be the next Uber or AirBNB is what I call the buzzword bingo. Many organizations fall into this by looking for trending terms like IoT, SaaS, Cloud, etc. While these may embody great technology, one needs to ask “Is it the right technology for our business?”.

Why is it so important to manage innovation?

At Ausenco, the information technologies we implement are passed through our internal Technology Steering Group (TSG), which is made up of some of the leading minds in the industry to make sure that not only are they innovative from a technological standpoint, but are they also right for our business lines. As the Director of Applications in the organization, I am constantly researching more efficient ways to do things with the ultimate goal of saving our clients’ time and delivering a better product, faster. However, for all technological advancements and systems, a business case must be provided to compare the return on the investment against the effort it will take to implement.

How does Ausenco manage systems innovation?

I read an article recently about how companies should engage more with their clients when it comes to innovation. The engagement process involves translating their wants or needs into something technically viable.

Being successful with innovation, however, probably involves some foresight and pre-empting the client’s needs. Like Steve Jobs said “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new”. We manage innovation through working with some great companies and doing our own research to see where the technologies and advancements might be useful to us and our clients.

Additionally, the industry is bursting with examples of systems and technologies being implemented unsuccessfully even though they might seem to address the right “buzzword”. To counteract this - once a business case is approved by the TSG - we conduct a contained Proof of Concept (PoC) within the business to make sure we address any details that might have not come across in a presentation. Experts within our business are usually selected to be part of the PoC.

What key factors set us apart when it comes to bringing innovation into life?

Great question, it takes me back to my views on innovation in the first question. In addition to having some of the great minds in the industry and our ability to come up with smarter ways of doing things, it’s a hard working team that sets us apart trying to get the ideas into practice. This involves challenging the status quo in an industry that has traditionally been a follower when it comes to innovation and new ideas, even though theoretically it should be at the forefront.

I firmly believe this is a people issue more than a technological one. The traditionalists however, serve as a good check to not fall into the traps that we discussed before. Additionally, a leadership team that serves as great sponsors and advisors provides invaluable direction to achieve success. And finally, the ability to think outside the box and “containerize” pilot projects to provide the right amount of information enabling a go/no-go decision.

At Ausenco, we focus relentlessly on creating real, bottom-line impact for our clients. We are adamant about measuring real outcomes and do not commit immediately to traditional metrics or blindly accept external ones. Rather, we adopt a flexible, tailored approach by working with our clients to ensure the right technology is being used.