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Striking the balance between ‘future proof’ and foolhardy

Striking the balance between ‘future proof’ and foolhardy

Leon Coetzer Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Sometimes ‘innovation’ isn’t all it’s cracked up to be…

Innovation has become more than a buzzword. For those working in the IT sector in particular, being seen as innovative and cutting edge – with a propensity for early adoption and experimentation – has become critical on the path to achieving success and seniority. For software developers, this translates into a tendency to continually experiment and play with potential new tech and platforms, in an effort to be seen as staying relevant and on the cusp of IT developments.

This can be hugely beneficial for clients and partners, when the experimentation leads to brilliant new solutions that differentiate clients from their competitors in key areas. So from the client perspective, a certain amount of ‘play’ should always be encouraged and catered for. Sometimes, however, businesses require straightforward solutions to their enterprise IT challenges, and can quickly run into expensive problems when their software partners get too brave and experimental. In these cases, while developers may indeed come up with something creative and new, it might well be unsuitable for the ultimate business need.

Creativity without innovation

Essentially, creativity is the capability to conceive something original and unusual – and in our view, the implementation of these creative ideas is where true innovation comes into play. The two have to work hand in hand though – and when creativity is present without the ability to cleverly match it to a business challenge, then the innovation element is missing.

In the realm of enterprise software, arguably the best approach is to be creative from a solutions point of view – and when applying the solution – the tried and tested technology and platforms are the best fit for established companies looking to solve key challenges. So for the ‘innovation’ part of the equation, at redPanda, we’ve often found it is advisable to use the more stable technology and frameworks to support the creative solution that has been put forward.

The Risks

There are a few important reasons behind this approach. For one, there are lots of new technology solutions and platforms to experiment with, particularly in the mobile sector, but many of them are not yet reliable and proven. The development and testing of new, cutting-edge technology is often very costly both in time and finances, coming without economy of scale, and carrying high licensing fees.

That said, the approach and level of experimentation with regards to new platforms should invariably depend on the business challenge. For example, when it comes to enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, these are usually massive and deeply embedded systems whereby it is hugely risky to change and experiment with the underlying technology and languages. In this case, new tech would need to be introduced slowly and on the peripheral in order to mitigate risk and limit financial losses.

When working with social websites and functions, however, it is imperative to continuously change and innovate - so it’s important to keep introducing new technologies and solutions. The business risks are notably lower, in this case, as there is little direct impact on critical business processes (and financial outcomes).

The Right Partners

For businesses, it is a hard balance to strike. There is a clear requirement to innovate and ‘future proof’, but this needs to be balanced with stable technology and operational consistency. As we have seen with local banks, sometimes the urge to quickly adopt slick technology platforms (which have yet to be proven over time), results in widespread glitches - which are client facing and hugely costly on many levels.

By developing long standing and transparent relationships with software developers and other IT partners, it naturally becomes easier for businesses to identify when to push the boundaries – and when to pursue more established and stable solutions.