API Management 5 minutes

Innovation is a perpetual process

RZW pasfoto 2020
Ruben van der Zwan
CEO & Co-Founder

innovationInnovation is a perpetual process. We in IT know that all too well. As soon as we’re done integrating some sort of hot new technology another piece of technology is already at the horizon. But how do you scout those technologies? You can have your own Research & Development department to do everything yourself, you can do it together with partners and universities or you can even do what big corporations do: buy what they like when the technology is right. But in the end whatever you do it always ends up that it needs to be integrated into your IT landscape and when you’re done it’s back to square one.

Something new

Innovation is defined by the dictionary as production of something new, nothing more, nothing less. That is the basic definition that Merriam Webster gives. But the ‘newness’ factor that dictionary talks about has multiple layers. It actually means new to world, something that we’ve never seen before. It can be new to your industry, for instance when you do cross industry innovation. And finally, it can be new to your organization, something that you introduce that you didn’t have before or perhaps even improved it a little bit. For instance, the introduction of track and trace, was at one point new to the logistics industry. Over time all logistics companies introduced it. This also shows that there is still value even if you’re not the first to try it out. As we will see later in can actually be beneficial to be a little bit late to the innovation party.

The downside of innovation

One of the downsides of innovation is that it seems like you’re spending a lot of money on something that might or might not work. And that is completely true. Innovation is gambling on multiple horses, not all will be successful. There is no guarantee in general that your innovation product, project or service is going to be successful. A manager that says you’re allowed to do it only if it becomes a success does not know what he or she is talking about. You cannot know if it’s going to be a success at an early stage. There might be some indication that it will work. You’ve done a prototype when you talk to clients, partners consumers customers whoever’s going to use it, but from the start, allowing only innovations that are guaranteed to work is actually not possible. For those of you will read my blog on brilliant failures you also know that there is benefit in learning from your mistakes.

Innovation cookbook

So how do organizations go around innovation well? There are a number of ways. One of the ways is to have a R&D department and staff it to some extent with your own money and your own people. This is one of the ways that you can have innovation in a very tailored fashion because you’re the one paying for it so you can call the shots as far as directions and outcomes. On the other hand, there is also the situation that you don’t want to do it all by yourself because not all smart people work at your organization. You might want to work together with partners, research universities were in some cases even your competitors. It is a question of skills and or supplementary or complementary and in some cases the fact that some innovations really need the whole industry to be behind it. But there is even third way that can be seen as complementary to the other two. Large corporations, with equally large or deep pockets, will identify start-ups in the market that are of interest to them. In some cases, there might even be an investment if the technology would startup is so promising that they want to be part of it. This monitoring may be done by the R&D department responsible for innovation or it could even be that people responsible for intellectual property do that monitoring.

It’s not only because of the deep pockets that large organizations or corporations take this approach. It is also the case that they might be active on a number of markets or technology areas and that is simply not humanly possible (with a hint of financial) to be active in innovation in all of these start-up areas. By monitoring it closely you can snap it up if it becomes a success and of course bring enough money to the table. There must be report for starters for all the work that they’ve done and that the reward might be big or small depending on the success of the startup itself. On the other hand, the companies that are acquiring them like Intel, Qualcomm, TomTom and Microsoft, have the money to pay for start-ups. It might also be that they’re not buying a startup but an established company just to have that part of the market in their portfolio as well.

Getting IT on board

At one point or another, that technology needs to be integrated into your IT landscape or be part of your product or service that you are offering to your clients. At that time one of my favorite hobby horses comes out to play: the API. Yes … It’s API time again! I mean the logical way to integrate systems from third parties, whether that’s established systems, established solutions or technology from startups, is using APIs. Not only APIs, micro services and stream processing as well. The latter to create more event driven architecture. When you’re done integration the new technology, back to square one. Because innovation is a perpetual process.

So, if you’re looking for a solution that will allow you to do just that, depending on how you are going to get into integration into your organization, take a look at our API manager selection guide. It will help you to find the right solution for you and integrate that new technology that have so high hopes of.