Don’t get sidetracked by unnecessary innovation

Man with lightbulb above head

Maintaining focus on your key competencies as an organisation is important and sometimes the need for diversification is required – after all, innovation is good. However it is far too easy for organisations to become sidetracked with unnecessary innovation, in the wrong areas.

I am always fascinated by the routes some organisations take to get to the end result. I come across many who are not in the software industry yet they have engaged people to develop software.

Recently I came across a mining services company who were trying to develop a tool that would visualise data they collected, on behalf of large mining companies.

Basically they wanted the end users to be able to interpret the data easily, but had spent nearly two years trying to achieve this! Their process involved a team of four staff (getting paid let’s say $80,000 a year) who, in the end, failed to deliver. So roughly, give or take, an investment of $640,000 without a successful result.

In the end we were called in with Qlikview to carry out data visualisation for the organisation and in three weeks and with software costs of around $25,000 we solved their issues. It also kept them in business!

There are many providers who can provide solutions using commercially-of-the-shelf-software (COTS), including consultancy and training, and it will work.

Why do I say this? Because there are already millions of users operating these systems successfully – I know it works because it’s tried and tested!

Now I am not against innovation, far from it. In fact I admire innovation and often we develop add-on functionality or industry specific elements to the solutions we sell.

But what we don’t do, and we advise others against, is reinvention of the wheel from scratch. It is a ludicrous approach to your business when an organisation has spent many millions on development of a COTS solution, which is being rated by Gartner and other industry experts as a market leader.

Do we really think we can do a better job with four guys in an office and a small budget?

If Australian businesses are going to succeed, be innovative by all means, but let’s not focus our efforts on developing things that have already been developed close to perfection by others. Instead, let’s look for new innovative ideas in the fields we are specialists in.

The first use of the wheel for transportation was probably on Mesopotamian chariots in 3200 BC and it has served us well since then. Sure there are different versions of the wheel for specific purposes but choose the right wheel and you will get many years happy usage out of it!