How an organisation approaches emerging technology and innovation is influenced considerably by the sector it operates in. A point underscored by the strategies taken by executives from Australian mining company Roy Hill and online retailer The Iconic.
While one organisation is largely concerned with the efficiencies of mining and transporting iron ore, the other makes technology decisions based predominantly on customer outcomes.
According to Rebbecca Kerr, general manager – technology, Roy Hill, before any emerging technology can be applied the organisation must ensure the enabling technology is in place to support it.
“If we haven’t got the basics in then we probably can’t maximise on what the [emerging] technology is,” Kerr said, following an SAP panel discussion in Sydney.
With that enabling technology in place the mining company then focuses on its value chain -the process of removing iron ore from the ground and shipping it to customers. According to Kerr, this helps identify any potential bottlenecks where technology may have the greatest impact.
“If it makes sense there and can drive some value and reduce the bottleneck then [applying emerging technology] would be a high priority activity for us,” she said.
At online retailer The Iconic the potential benefits of applying new technology are not always readily apparent and all decisions are made with consideration for the customer, according to Anna Lee, the company’s chief operating officer.
“Everything revolves around customer centricity. So for us we use a lot of data points that our customers give us,” she told Which-50.
That information often come through direct communication with the customer but it is important to supplement that with other data points, including from within the organisation, according to Lee.
Keeping that balance between internal and external means The Iconic can deliver real outcomes and avoids chasing “the next shiny button” that “isn’t necessarily something that your customers want”.
To develop those strategies the online retailer relies on it “embedded” innovation culture.
“Innovation is really, for us, just adapting to change as opposed to a specific stream,” Lee said.
While the benefits of an inherently innovative workforce are obvious, it does present new challenges, according to Lee. Management needs to satisfy the workforce’s desire to learn and grow every day, she said.
“You need to support that through a number of different ways. Through building your culture, embedding it in your leadership principles, making sure that you run meeting and ask for outputs and deliverables in a way that encourages that.”
According to Lee, that approach runs in tandem with several initiatives like pet project days and learning funds, which encourage employees to “pursue their own desires”.
That can include unconventional ideas, not necessarily within the constraints of The Iconic’s strategic road map, Lee said.
About the author
Joseph Brookes is a writer for the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit, of which SAP is a corporate member. Our members provide their insights and expertise for the benefit of the Which-50 community. Membership fees apply.