Microsoft Partner
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Managing enterprise innovation projects to deliver value

Managing enterprise innovation projects to deliver value


Technology innovation labs can create new business models and futureproof enterprise – but if they don’t deliver value, they won’t last long. Our Client Services Director, Mark Lapicki, who ran a successful technology innovation lab for a Fortune 500 company, explains how CIOs and CTOs can manage and demonstrate value from their innovation teams.

Shortlisting innovation projects to deliver value

If an innovation culture is successful, and starts creating the culture, the innovation team should have a healthy pipeline of ideas from across the enterprise. The challenge then becomes identifying which ones to take forward.

My recommendation is to start off by imagining the finish line; I would start by writing a press release, not intended for circulation, but to give a gauge as to whether we’d got something that was actually interesting or not.

If you try and write a press release and you're struggling to find something interesting to say, it's probably not an innovation project. But if the press release writes itself, it becomes a mechanism by which you can bring other people on that journey and galvanise everybody on where you're trying to get to; across the whole business, everyone can understand the project and its value, both in terms of the equity for the business and the value from the solution.

Managing timelines and costs of innovation projects

Writing a press release also provides a definition of when the project is done; it prevents the innovation exercise being open ended, which is one of the things which can cause failure within innovation; if you don’t know where you’re trying to get to, it’s easy to end up with spiralling of costs. So starting with a press release provides two clear functions: everybody knows what you're trying to do and what the value is, and you know when to stop.

It’s then important to time box it, for example: ‘I’m going to issue this press release three months from today’. So now you've got a good articulation of what the problem is, what the solution value is, and when you're going to have that done by.

The next step is to timeline a plan to deliver by that deadline. For example, ‘I need to build an MVP by the end of month one. I need to get that in front of people and start gathering data during month two, and I need to make refinements to that and issue updates to it during the second month. By the third month, I need to be writing up all the analysis and get to a point where we can actually do that press release’.

Managing a portfolio of innovation projects

If we think about innovation as a collection of ideas that go into the funnel, some of those ideas go forward, some of them don't. You can't, as an innovation team, work only on the very risky things, because there's a good chance that you won't be around very long. And you can't work on all the very safe things, because then you're not really pushing the boundaries.

You have to think of it like you're running a business. You wouldn't run a business only on doing risky things; you'd manage your portfolio with a mixture of safe things and risky things. It’s exactly the same with innovation; to be effective, you have to have a portfolio of projects that mix things that are incremental improvements with things that are out there and crazy – a balance of innovation for show and innovation to grow.

This also reduces the risk of being too wedded to one idea, because the team will have several things on the go at once. A part of the innovation is to be able to say, this idea sucks, let's bin it before we spend any more time on it and put the resource into something else.

It’s also worth realising that the ending of projects isn’t always binary: success or failure. There are sometimes projects that are just not at the right time – perhaps the market isn’t ready for it. But a couple of years later, the market might have caught up, so timing can be important when it comes to innovation. The beauty with a true innovation culture is that an innovation team that has longevity can revisit the project to bring it to market when the timing is right.

AI as part of the innovation toolkit

With AI dominating tech headlines, it could be easy to think that innovation starts and ends with AI. AI is definitely a useful tool to solve help solve business problems, but it by no means has the answers for every challenge. You also have to consider what AI might be relevant for the problem you’re trying to solve: what Chat GPT or an image generator can solve is wildly different to the problems that a computer vision system can solve. But once you give a system eyes and ears and allow it to understand and interpret the world around it, it will open up whole new possibilities for problem solving.

Want to know more about how to introduce a technology innovation culture? – read more.

Introducing enterprise innovation

If you’re a CIO or CTO wanting to introduce innovation as a cultural change, it can be helpful to discuss how to do so successfully – and how to get buy-in from your fellow C-suites – from an experienced team who already have operational understanding of running innovation, who have already had those learns, and are able to navigate a large enterprise to build a sustainable innovation function.


If that’s a conversation that could be useful for you, get in touch.