We’re so used to hearing new business “buzzwords” every so often that it has become easy to ignore them. Innovation is a word that’s been around for some time, which refers to developing and implementing new or more effective products, processes and ideas.
It doesn’t only mean inventing new products and services, either; it can also mean making changes to your business model or adjusting to new environmental factors to provide better service.
Innovation should be part of a business strategy and ingrained in the company’s culture to optimize the benefits.
Embracing Digital Innovation
In the digital era, innovation increasingly aligns with the use of technology in new and exciting ways, and a successful outcome means increased market share and revenue growth.
“At AndPlus, innovation is embraced as part of the culture to help keep the company on the 'bleeding edge' of technology,” says Abdul Dremali, Innovation Lab Lead. "By working constantly on side ventures in areas like machine learning, artificial intelligence and big data, the company stays up-to-date with the latest developments and is ready to take on complex projects in the future. It enables AndPlus to take on ambitious projects for clients, and gives customers confidence that the company has skills and experience to build the programs they require," Dremali says.
Why Innovation is Important
Management guru Peter Drucker once stated that it was the work of a business enterprise to create its customers. That might sound counter-intuitive when weighed against the idea of business responding to customer demand, but it’s in sync with the marketing philosophy of demand generation. Mobile giant Nokia became the top service provider in India by using innovation to “create” 200 million customers. By putting it at the center of the strategy, it’s possible for businesses to improve their results while simultaneously discovering better ways of doing things.
It sounds obvious, but research by McKinsey shows 94 percent of executives surveyed aren’t happy with innovation levels in their companies. Meanwhile, 85 percent are using ideas generated by others on which to base their business offerings.
Fostering the Spirit of Innovation
Making innovation part of your strategy and culture is a great start, but it’s also essential to "walk the talk" by fostering a spirit of innovation among your team, says Dremali. “At AndPlus, 2017 saw the introduction of an 'Innovation Lab,' which offers an open invitation for any designer or engineer to create cutting edge software that grabs their interest.”
To date, Dremali says they have seen projects in machine vision, Blockchain and neural networks being developed, and developers can frequently be seen showing off their new technology to each other. The company believes the Innovation Lab has been successful in encouraging team members to push the envelope, even if the projects they work on are not revenue-generating at the time.
Building the Future
So, what sort of exciting internal projects have AndPlus engineers developed recently that could have far-reaching consequences for the future? One of the coolest, says Dremali, is a machine learning/computer vision application that recognizes images on the fly. “The engineers use it in several different ways,” he says, “one of which is that it recognizes an exact scene and translates the view into the language of the operator’s choice.” How is this useful to anybody, you wonder? Well, it can be used to recognize potentially dangerous plants, Dremali explains. A user can snap a photo of a plant and the algorithm will be able to determine whether it is poison ivy or a harmless shrub. The ability to recognize and alert users to potential dangers offers a wide range of promising applications, ranging from use in leisure activities such as camping and hiking to possibly mapping the image to existing data to predict the outcome of choices the user makes.
Innovation as Culture
AndPlus’ process of creating a culture of innovation is based on the belief that innovation is essential to maintain its position as a leader in software development, a market defined by rapid change. The company also believes innovation isn’t the job of executives alone, but it can come from anyone in the organization. With the AndPlus Innovation team being the first Boston-area technology organization to have a research paper on machine learning and neural networks published, Dremali believes the company is really going all in on innovation.
Deploying innovation as a culture is vital for businesses to grow, and AndPlus is working hard to ensure it remains at the cutting edge of science and technology for the sake of its clients, says Dremali. "We understand this requires us to put the same trust in employees as clients put in us, and with many good ideas never seeing the light of day we believe it’s important to ensure staff get encouragement and recognition for innovation they deserve."