The unspoken goal of innovation, as well as technology, is to solve problems. To remain comparative and have competitive advantage organizations employ innovative and technological solutions to meet their objectives. As business analysts we often find ourselves in meetings where business will dictate a potential solution to be “innovative”. Whilst we have noted the the requirement we realize that the potential solution is likely a tweaking of a process and introducing/amending current technology. Because of the blurry lines between the two there has been some overlap which result in organizations thinking that they are the same.
Let’s look at these two principles individually;
Innovation is one of the most bandied about terms in global business today, but what does it mean? Often people conflate ideation with innovation. Being innovative does not only mean inventing. My favorite definition of innovation is by Nick Skilicorn,
“Turning an idea into a solution that adds value from the customer’s perspective.”
From this definition we can tell that innovation is a process and it takes the following order:
And from this process we can deduce that innovation takes three forms:
Products, services and processes
Once either of the three forms have been made available to market customers have to adopt them and innovators realize their profits.
The graph below illustrates the relative speed at which participants adopt an innovation. The categories of adopters are innovators (those that are willing to take risks), early adopters (the first to adopt innovation), early majority (adopt an innovation after a varying degree of time that is significantly longer than the innovators and early adopters), late majority (they adopt an innovation after the average participant.), and laggards (the last to adopt an innovation).
Now let’s look at Technology
When we think of the word ‘technology’, a lot comes to mind. We use it to accomplish various tasks in our daily lives because it is so well-integrated into daily life that we may not realize its extent. The term “Technology” is wide, and everyone has their way of understanding its meaning.
So what exactly is Technology?
“Technology is a body of knowledge devoted to creating tools, processing actions and the extracting of materials.”
Like innovation there is also a process to it. Its starts with Development Stage where technology is built and then the beta version is ready to be tested(Intro). The growth stage illustrates the movement from beta to launching the product (growth stage), technology is being accepted by the public (maturity stage). Then off course the stage most organizations dread, the inevitable decline stage where we see technology becoming obsolete.
Innovation and Technology, separate or interdependent?
We have described these two disciplines and from these definitions and elements the differences between the two disciplines should be clear. Since the two terms innovation and technology are understood in a qualitative manner and also on a personal level, there will always be debate on their classifications. Technology enables innovation. While innovation and its process are where the technology is transformed from static knowledge into a practical implemented product.
Roger’s bell curve illustrates the relationship between the Technology life cycle and the Innovation lifecycle. Here we see that the rate of innovation versus the technology :
You might then ask after reading all this information what is it to me?
As business analysts, its pivotally important to understand the current technology, innovation and the rate of adopting innovation by an organization’s clientele so that when we make recommendations they are relevant and aligned to the organization’s strategic goals.
• Rogers, Everett (16 August 2003). Diffusion of Innovations, 5th Edition. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-0-7432-5823-4. Rogers 1962, p. 150
• Roger’s bell curve
• Nick Skilicorn
• McGraw-Hill Education 2016
Neo Mashishi is a Business Analyst at Britehouse, an information technology company providing industry leading digital solutions. She is currently seconded to Discovery’s Vitality Group as a consultant, providing business analysis services. While in the employment of Britehouse, Neo has consulted at different clients and in-house projects such as the City of Johannesburg, Stratum Insurance and Regent insurance amongst others. Prior to joining Britehouse, Neo Mashishi held numerous positions at Price Waterhouse Coopers, IBM, Anglo Platinum, Merck Pharmaceuticals and ABSA bank. She is currently pursuing a Bcom degree at the University of the Witwatersrand. She also be embarking on a journey to completing a CCBA certification.
Neo is a past student of FTI and recently attended the Agile Business Analysis Workshop with Ronak Sanghavi.