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The secret to competitiveness: A lab-based approach to innovation

Today’s businesses face an overwhelming onslaught of technological change, which means that most enterprises find themselves in reactive mode — behind the curve and racing to keep up. With new advances in AI, cloud, robotics, IoT, analytics and the metaverse, it’s hard to anticipate future market needs and align your innovation strategy with your business strategy. The possibilities are endless, which actually becomes a hindrance. When technology can take you literally anywhere, how do you steer your business?

Believe it or not, there is a solution. Applied properly, a lab-based approach can deliver the innovation that is achievable, outcome-based, and aligned with your business goals and the future direction of your organization. Here are three important factors that can make or break your innovation lab initiative:

1. Be a good listener

Whether you are a technologist, a business user or a service provider, the most important thing you can do is to listen to your counterparts from other departments or functional areas. There is always a balance to be struck between business needs and technological limitations, and arriving at the optimal nablingon is often an exercise in compromise. If there is no “out of the box” solution, co-innovation is required, which raises the stakes.

When working with an internal or external technology provider, good communication is essential. Innovation requires investment, and the financial burden should be distributed among the different parties. It’s essential for everyone involved to be up-front, forthright and open to each other’s perspective. Everyone must understand and agree on the terms: whether or not the solution is exclusive, whether external funding is provided, how royalties will be distributed, and any other financial and contractual aspects.

2. Keep users at the heart of innovation

Innovation is useless if your people don’t know how to incorporate it into their daily work lives. Poor user adoption is one of the most common reasons why new technologies fail, so employing a user-centric design approach is critical. End users must be involved from the early stages. Moreover, they should be considered equal and active participants in the research — not just test subjects.

Make sure your innovation partner involves your key staff and puts them in the room with their technology and process experts, as well as other members of the innovation ecosystem (start-ups, academics, consultants, etc.)

Even if your objectives are difficult to specify at the beginning, keeping your business users actively engaged provides important “guard rails” — controlling the risk of failure and helping steer you towards an adaptable, usable solution. If your technology partner isn’t getting your end users involved in the innovation lab process, it’s time to look for a new one.

3. Make sure it will scale

Finally, whatever new innovation you and your partners develop, you must be able to get it out of the lab and into the hands of users across the enterprise. History is littered with examples of big ideas that never made it from theory to practice. When it comes to IT systems, scalability is nearly always the limiting factor.

If you are working with an innovation partner, make sure they have the tooling to rapidly create functional proofs of concept designed for operational industrialization. At Atos, experience has shown that best way to ensure that ideas created in a lab setting are relevant, impactful, and ready to deploy at enterprise scale. By anticipating future scalability needs and incorporating expansion strategies from the beginning, you can ensure your technologies always maintain the highest level of performance.

 

At Atos, we have taken this structured approach to innovation and built it into Inno’Labs in 14 locations across Europe, which enable us to anticipate trends and help guarantee competitiveness for our clients. They represent a unique, scalable solution that enables us to support region-specific technological trends in the markets we serve.

 

 

This article is an excerpt from Atos’s latest publication, Digital Vision: Technology with a human touch. To read more of Laurent’s article and view our other content, click here.

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About Laurent Clergue
Director of Innovation, Atos Technology Services
Laurent Clergue has always been fascinated by computers and software — using large scale data and high-level automation to provide a deeper understanding of our own planet, environment and society. After several years serving as product manager of Atos's space imagery Software as a Service (SaaS), he now manages over 10 AI and digital-powered Atos Inno'Labs supported by 100+ experts. Before joining Atos, Laurent was CEO of GEOSIGWEB, a pioneering geomatic software startup, where he was responsible for defining the company’s SaaS strategy and developing business in the public sector. Laurent enjoys offering IT solutions to problems that didn’t seem to call for spatial and computer technologies. As a unique hybrid of a humanist and an engineer, his contributions have made it possible to better monitor and safeguard our precious natural resources.