Future-proof or foolhardy?

Sometimes 'innovation' isn't all it's cracked up to be...

Read time 3min 30sec

Innovation has become more than a buzzword. For those working in the IT sector in particular, being seen as innovative and cutting-edge - with a propensity for early adoption and experimentation - has become critical on the path to achieving success and seniority. For software developers, this translates into a tendency to continually experiment and play with potential new tech and platforms, in an effort to be seen as staying relevant and on the cusp of IT developments.

This can be hugely beneficial for clients and partners, when the experimentation leads to brilliant new solutions that differentiate clients from their competitors in key areas. So, from the client's perspective, a certain amount of 'play' should always be encouraged and catered for.

Sometimes, however, businesses require straightforward solutions to their enterprise IT challenges, and can quickly run into expensive problems when their software partners get too brave and experimental. In these cases, while developers may indeed come up with something creative and new, it might well be unsuitable for the ultimate business need.

Creativity without innovation

Essentially, creativity is the capability to conceive of something original and unusual - and in my view, the implementation of these creative ideas is where true innovation comes into play. The two have to work hand-in-hand, though, and when creativity is present without the ability to cleverly match it to a business challenge, then the innovation element is missing.

In the realm of enterprise software, arguably the best approach is to be creative from a solutions point of view. And, when applying the solution, the tried and tested technology and platforms are the best fit for established companies looking to solve key challenges. For the 'innovation' part of the equation, it is advisable to use the more stable technology and frameworks to support the creative solution that has been put forward.

The risks

There are a few important reasons behind this approach. For one, there are lots of new technology solutions and platforms to experiment with, particularly in the mobile sector, but many of them are not yet reliable and proven. The development and testing of new, cutting-edge technology is often costly both in time and finances, coming without economy of scale, and carrying high licensing fees.

That said, the approach and level of experimentation with regards to new platforms should invariably depend on the business challenge. For example, when it comes to enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, these are usually massive and deeply embedded systems whereby it is hugely risky to change and experiment with the underlying technology and languages. In this case, new tech would need to be introduced slowly and on the periphery in order to mitigate risk and limit financial losses.

Creativity is the capability to conceive of something original and unusual.

When working with social Web sites and functions, however, it is imperative to continuously change and innovate - so it's important to keep introducing new technologies and solutions. The business risks are notably lower, in this case, as there is little direct impact on critical business processes (and financial outcomes).

The right partners

For businesses, it is a hard balance to strike. There is a clear requirement to innovate and 'future proof', but this needs to be balanced with stable technology and operational consistency. As has been seen with local banks, sometimes the urge to quickly adopt slick technology platforms (which have yet to be proven over time) results in widespread glitches, which are client-facing and hugely costly on many levels.

By developing long-standing and transparent relationships with software developers and other IT partners, it naturally becomes easier for businesses to identify when to push the boundaries - and when to pursue more established and stable solutions.

Leon Coetzer

business development manager

Leon Coetzer is business development manager at redPanda. He holds both a computer systems diploma and an enterprise architect qualification. He has 18 years of software industry experience under his belt, with extensive experience in enterprise software development. Prior to joining redPanda, Coetzer was a senior development manager, working closely at an executive level with various corporates. Through this involvement, he gained an intimate appreciation of the workings of large corporates. Coetzer has a strong background in implementing and improving the full SDLC, with a preference for agile methodologies and tools, and technical abilities in architecting and overseeing projects using a wide range of technologies and frameworks. With a strategic and operational focus on new business, Coetzer brings a unique blend of technical and business knowledge to the redPanda Software team.

See also