22nd November 2018
Driving innovation in Northern Irish organisations: the steps to success
By Bob McClean, Business Development Director, Civica NI
Innovation: a term that carries so much promise. Massive savings, greater efficiencies and improved service delivery. And yet it also comes with uncertainty: as with any R&D, there’s no sure-fire way of guaranteeing success. This is why so many innovation programmes get side-lined, in favour of more traditional efficiency drives. Even though the rewards may not be as great, these conventional cost-saving projects tend to offer a higher level of certainty when it comes to their outcomes. With Brexit looming and the lack of devolved government, this stance is understandable. But what increasing numbers of Northern Ireland’s organisations are realising is that correctly targeted innovation initiatives can achieve more than one goal.
Firstly, they can help deliver the necessary efficiencies – and potentially achieve greater savings than a traditional efficiency drive. Secondly, innovation programme can unlock much higher-value benefits, such as new approaches to services, new revenue streams and more acceptance from customers and business.
It genuinely is the best of both worlds. Sound too good to be true? Let’s look at a couple of examples to illustrate what’s possible.
Delivering successful innovation initiatives
Take application modernisation and management. Most organisations have legacy IT systems that are expensive to maintain and inflexible when it comes to developing new products or services. By simply moving these apps to a modern, more innovative technology base that’s easier to support, the organisation can immediately achieve some of the efficiencies its aiming for by driving down management costs. However, that shouldn’t be the scale of their ambition. These savings can be amplified by harnessing the opportunity to radically rethink how the service is delivered, rather than just re-engineer the platform it’s delivered on. Adding in innovative predictive maintenance techniques that proactively identify and address problems before they impact, helps avoid costs associated with poor performance or downtime. Importantly, as well as delivering these efficiencies, the new technology platform provides the foundations for agility in future service development – it’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Workplace productivity improvement initiatives can also benefit from innovative technologies, such as the use of robotic process automation. Using this, and a tried and tested approach to process optimisation and streamlining, we’ve been able to help our customers save money and free up skilled human resources to focus on higher-value work. The outcomes of this efficiency-focused innovation can be rolled out in other places, including customer-facing systems. In the area of data, the use of artificial intelligence can be particularly effective, only showing items of interest to a human operator; allowing huge productivity gains.
Partnering for success
These examples highlight how innovation can help achieve cost savings and other efficiencies, while simultaneously providing the key to unlocking the higher rewards every organisation wants. But how should organisations go about delivering successful multi-purpose innovation initiatives? How can they minimise their exposure to risk, while maximising the potential rewards? With organisations lacking the right skills, resource and even knowledge internally, taking advantage of these new technologies is not an easy path to conquer.
The first thing to look for is a partner that’s open to sharing the risk of innovation. This could be through an existing investment they’ve made in a relevant area of R&D, or through a shared-risk, shared-reward commercial model.
Together, set a strategy that defines where you want to be as an organisation – both in terms of efficiency savings and customer engagement gains. This needs to look at how your organisation may need to change structurally and culturally, as well as technologically.
It’s best if your innovation partner is capable of coming with you on the journey. As well as helping you define the strategy, the partner should be able to implement it. This gives you the simplicity of working with one organisation throughout, and ensures the strategic direction you set out at the start is genuinely achievable – because the partner will be fully committed to the process.
The outcomes can be truly transformational. Civica NI worked with AccessNI to deliver a new online digital solution, enabling citizens to complete disclosure applications and payments securely online. What was a long and largely paper-based process is now a more efficient and customer friendly service, with over 99% of all disclosure applications submitted online. As the only disclosures service in the UK to provide both online applications and the issue of digital certificates across all types of disclosure products, AccessNI have benefitted from a 14% decrease in expenditure costs.
In this way, a joint commitment to innovation between us and our customers is both driving efficiency savings and helping unleash high-reward benefits.
Where could a well-targeted innovation programme take your organisation?
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