This article is authored by Henry Tan (Managing Director, Nexia TS)
Over the past few decades, innovation has become an exciting new buzzword for entrepreneurs and veteran business leaders alike – throughout the course of history, businesses rise and fall, and many are set apart by how well they adapt and exploit new opportunities to achieve that margin. As Michael Porter puts it, “Innovation has become perhaps the most important source of competitive advantage in advanced economies.”¹ An innovation is any development that creates positive change, and it could be as big as new product launches or smaller scale process improvements.
In this article, Nexia TS shares its perspectives on the components that make corporate innovation work.
Innovation is more about mindset than skillsets
As innovation is a complex, organisation-wide endeavour, it can consume quite a fair bit of organisational resources, time, and it definitely is a collective effort from many stakeholders. Peter Drucker, the great pioneer of management, provides a comprehensive summary in his classic article The Discipline of Innovation: “In innovation, there is talent, there is ingenuity, and there is knowledge. But when it is said and done, what innovation requires is hard, focused, purposeful work.”² He identified that innovation requires a fervent dedication to making it work (and that includes not giving up easily after initial setbacks or failures), believing in the leadership’s vision and depending on the right people with the passion to propel the company to greater heights. However, do all innovations have to be big in order to make an impact?
Small beginnings, big results
Zeroing in on small innovations can lead to big breakthroughs. After all, as far as productivity is concerned, we are all striving to achieve more with less. Instead of becoming obsessed with large-scale innovative projects, we should constantly reinvent ourselves to improve in areas such as organisational structure, our products or services and even communications. We have to ask ourselves how we can achieve more with less.
It is always tempting to try to capture some grand solution in one leap. While that can happen, more often than not, the best solutions do not necessarily have to be big. Even if the initial results are modest, you could use the new findings to fine-tune existing process or even set new business standards. Going small doesn’t mean you can’t go big – it only means that when you finally do get big, there is a good chance for it to become remarkably big.
Case Study: The Productivity Challenge
In any given day, data, whether structured or unstructured, course through the veins of an organisation, at times haphazardly. What is needed is a form of clearly-defined, systematic order that provides a framework of structure and regulation to make sense of all these information with the objectives to maximise productivity by reducing the volume of manual operations, improving service level to both clients and internal business units, achieving a quicker service lead time, etc amongst many other operational efficiency improvement objectives.
The Solution: Workflow Improvements Through Technological Innovation
For this purpose, Nexia TS has put in place an integrated online system, the Practice Management System (PMS), to centrally manage such information in its innovation project. Functioning as the information nerve centre whereby key operational workflows are linked seamlessly, the PMS approach is an interactive workflow-driven system that aims to achieve key business objectives through a centralised platform to improve external customer relationships and internal collaborations by automating tasks and activities. Work processes are also streamlined, thus shortening the business process cycle. As a result, individual staff’s productivity is raised.
The amount of manual tasks required has decreased due to the technological improvements put in place by the system. Information is more readily available, increasing efficiency and effectiveness of workflow. Further to the consolidation of common databases, the firm has managed to provide a more customised level of service to each client as the information is now centrally-managed and easily accessible to the relevant individuals.
The architecture style follows a Service-Oriented Approach (SOA) with the end user’s operation requirements in mind. The focus is in transforming common services into a set of linked services – preferably repeatable operation tasks. Such a methodology defines the building of services with agility using distributed systems that have tight operation interactions between business/operation and technology model.
Through the deployment of the PMS platform, the firm has developed the following capabilities as a result of the implementation:
- Quicker and Easier Geographical Expansion
- Increased Productivity
- Improved Service Level
- Staying on top of innovation and change
Encourage a culture of learning
Besides having a clear innovation strategy, at the end of the day, the “software” is as important as the “hardware”. In this sense, building an innovative culture is as equally as important as the technological platform and this means on-going process improvements and active staff involvement from all levels.
As organisations learn and grow from their past failures and advancements, the resources, time and energy poured into improving the business begins to make real progress only when a certain degree of failure (a somewhat necessary part of growth) is tolerated. This plays an important part of encouraging innovation by operating in a clear but flexible framework that understands failure as probable steps in the organisational learning process. Therefore, the required behavioural change to first transform into a learning organisation has to be set in motion in order to further boost the organisation to achieve innovative improvements or even breakthroughs in the long run.
Nexia TS has recently won the much-acclaimed Innovation Award, conferred under the Business Excellence Awards as part of the Singapore Accountancy Awards 2016.
If you are contemplating to embark on transforming your business workflow or would like a private discussion with like-minded peers on corporate innovation, feel free to get in touch with us.
¹ Michael Porter and Scott Stern, “National Innovative Capacity,” in The World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report (2002).
For more information, please contact:
Mr Henry Tan