INNOVATION PROGRAMS IN THE IT INDUSTRY ARE NOT PREVALENT, BUT DO EXIST. LARGE COMPANIES SUCH AS GOOGLE OFFER REGULAR INNOVATION TIME FOR THEIR DEVELOPERS. AT GOOGLE, THIS TIME IS COMMONLY KNOWN AS ‘20% TIME’, WHERE GOOGLE HAS ALLOTTED A DAY A WEEK FOR THEIR DEVELOPERS TO PLAY AROUND WITH IDEAS. ALTHOUGH NOT MANY COMPANIES WILL BE ABLE TO AFFORD TAKING THEIR DEVELOPERS OFF PROJECTS FOR SUCH A LONG TIME ON A REGULAR BASIS, IT IS A PROGRAM THAT IS GARNERING MORE INTEREST AMONGST COMPANIES IN THE IT INDUSTRY.
“Innovation is an important part of most businesses, particularly in the software development industry where software developers innovate for a living,” commented Kareem Tawansi, CEO of software development provider, Solentive Software.
More often than not, innovation is a long-term goal. Long-term goals are often sidelined by short-term goals as projects that contribute to the company’s cash flow have deadlines that must be met. Without allocating a specific day and time for developers to generate innovative ideas where they have the freedom to take risks and fail, opportunities for future success may be missed.
“A key point to innovation is to consistently encourage and support it. Providing flexibility and a space to be creative in an unstructured manner will increase employee engagement, retention and the ability for them to grow and develop. However, it also needs to be funded and this is where the challenge lies for many organisations,” continued Kareem.
“Google’s ‘20% time’ is fantastic in theory as they can afford to offer up to 20% of their developers’ time for the prospect of future success, but not practical for many organisations. Therefore, organisations that decide to offer an innovation program must ensure that the program is sustainable within the business. This means that the organisation needs to determine a more reasonable length and frequency for the organisation that they can comfortably support without jeopardising a real-world project with a deadline that must be met,” advised Kareem.
Such programs should also be offered to the entire IT department, not just software developers as ideas can come from unexpected sources. Participation should also be voluntary, and ideas, successes and failures should be tracked as they can be improved upon by a different employee further down the track. It is also important that management understands that the program will not generate immediate results but this does not mean that the program is a waste of time and resources. At the same time however, milestones should also be implemented to innovation projects to ensure that results are achieved.
“If the program is properly implemented and expectations are carefully managed, the overall result will be in the form of happier employees who are able to provide innovative product concepts for the company’s long-term success,” concluded Kareem.