CIOs and co-innovation: how to use the wisdom of the crowd

Brian ThornBrian Thorn, Global SAP Co-innovation Leader at EY, explains how crowdsourcing can offer an exciting way for CIOs to move from technology deployment to technology innovation.

In this digital world, where disruption from agile new competitors has become an ever-present threat, innovation is critical. In order to combat disruption, businesses need to stay one step ahead of the game.

Innovation, as you would expect, requires fresh thinking, experimentation and new approaches. To unlock the innovation potential of key technologies — such as data analytics, mobile and cloud — CIOs need to lead innovation and embrace dynamic new approaches to co-creation and collaboration.

Crowdsourcing is an excellent example. It’s a dynamic approach to idea generation, which ignores traditional organizational boundaries. You need to work across the extended enterprise ecosystem, bringing together internal teams, partners and customers.

For CIOs seeking innovation, here are three crucial steps:

1. Open up innovation-setting processes to partners
CIOs can open up their innovation processes by partnering with service providers who share their aims and are prepared to embrace collaboration. To identify potential allies, CIOs must study their partners’ portfolios to find common areas of interest. For example, here at EY, we are a global partner of SAP. We are collaborating to develop enhanced applications and services for its in-memory database platform, HANA.

This co-innovation effort draws on EY’s knowledge of the “real-world” issues that our clients face, helping to ensure that this new technology is targeted at genuine business needs.

2. Draw on collective brainpower
If a small group starts to define innovation opportunities, it can result in a very narrow approach being taken. Opening up the process to a wider group can give you a greater diversity of input. It can also unearth previously unknown expertise in your organization. And it can give you insights into the end-user experience.
With SAP, we invited 1,000 EY practitioners to our SAP Hana Innovation Challenge webcast. We received more than 100 ideas, from people across 14 different countries.

3. Determine how you are going to evaluate new ideas
The end goal of innovation crowdsourcing is to move from idea generation to implementation. This requires a clear approach to identifying and prioritizing the best ideas. The process starts with a structuring stage, where ideas are clustered into larger groupings or strategic themes. Then it involves a selection stage, where the best ideas within those strategic themes are selected using a defined and efficient process. For example, a panel of experts could pick ideas based on their contribution to customer value.

We identified 23 winning ideas from our SAP HANA Innovation Challenge, and we’ve already exploited many of them.

For example, eight winning ideas were directly related to a tax transformation program that we’ve been building for the HANA platform. And six of these are being integrated into that program.

The wisdom of the crowd

What can CIOs learn from this exercise?

Very simply, that your organization and its partners are full of people with innovative ideas. You just need to find new ways to unlock that value and then exploit it.

CIOs should start experimenting now: identifying where crowdsourcing can be used to move technology from a deployment to a genuine innovation.


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