Stephen Bottger Executive: Software Engineering unpacks the innovation approach and how this is the key to overcoming national challenges
In this era of exponential digital progress, innovation is no longer a simple matter of products and services, it is about how we adapt to a changing world. It is about the processes we adopt and how we use all of this to either improve efficiency, cut costs, enhance customer satisfaction, and decrease turnaround times. Further to this, innovation is about how we can enhance our impact and assist communities in places where it matters most.
As South Africans, our default view on innovation is that we are always somehow playing catch up with the rest of the world. However, we should remember that South Africa has been the breeding ground for some remarkable innovations. We performed the first heart transplant, invented the CAT scan, gave the world the Kreepy Krauly, our Pratley’s Putty assisted with the 1969 moon landing, and the list goes on and on.
These innovations of the past have their place in our memory and should serve as inspiration, but the world is constantly changing. This change is being accelerated by rapid advancements in technology which has continuously evolved to become more accessible, user friendly and open.
Where there is innovation, there are likely longer-term competitive advantages for organisations and solutions for the challenges we face as a country, and as a world. But how do we fuel such innovation?
The real trick to sparking innovation is to incorporate a dynamism of views, perspectives and insights. At a company level, the power of the workforce is the fuel that will light the innovation fire. That is where the Altron Systems Integration story of innovation begins.
At Altron Systems Integration, our purpose was always written as ‘delivering innovation that matters’. To spur this innovation, we have inculcated a culture of innovation through our organisation to give our employees a platform in which they can truly shine.
We have implemented our Idea Trigger innovation platform, which is a cloud based platform we have developed and sell to customers, to help us capture new ideas from across our business, and this includes social engagement, gamification and evaluation stages to move ideas through the innovation funnel.
The ideas that make it through to the final round are presented at a “dragon’s den” type setting to the executive committee and the MD and CIO, for funding approval. This is a phenomenal opportunity for our people from all corners of the business to engage personally with the most senior executives in the organisation. That is how we are ‘delivering innovation that matters’, but it is not something that needs to end with Altron Systems Integration.
When developing innovation initiatives, it would be prudent for us all to cluster these programmes and networks together wherever we can. By doing this we can foster partnerships between academic institutions, research organisations and private companies of all sizes and from various industries.
For the common good of our economic recovery and growth, we should be doing this to plug the holes that are holding us back. To fix the problems that have for so long stymied our progress.
For instance, labour shortages in high-skilled sectors such as ICT are severely limiting innovation. This is mostly driven by emigration to the US‚ Europe and Australia. We know that formal education needs focus and improvement, but this might take time that we do not have, so we may need to consider ways of attracting skills back into the country. A clear focus area for us all to collaborate on for the good of an industry and the country.
By bringing in government, we can help improve the effectiveness of public programmes and incentives for innovation. We can align on national development goals and potentially consolidate our innovation programmes for the greater good.
Of course, this is all easier said than done. So, as a first step, perhaps it is easier to acknowledge that our innovation journey is one that we need to embark on together. Let your ambitions start within your organisation and then nurture it until it brings in partners, ropes in government and ends up truly benefitting the nation.
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