A 101 Guide to Innovation In The Digital World

In a world that was hurtling towards being completely digital even before COVID-19 forced it to pick up the pace, innovation is a many-faceted thing that constantly evolves.

Digital innovation continually raises the bar on market standards, forcing companies to keep up to maintain their market share. On the plus side, a commitment to digital transformation helps lower the barriers to entering newer markets. Digital tools are providing companies with a keener insight into market trends and consumer preferences.

Against this background, companies agile in adopting digital technology get to stay ahead of the curve.

The most significant impact of the digital revolution has been felt in three key areas, regardless of the size of an organisation:

  • Research and Development (R&D)
  • Operations, Products, and Processes
  • Business model design

Digital technology helps save R&D costs by means of data analytics tools that cull post-consumer data on product usage to provide companies with valuable insights. These tools have evolved to be very user-friendly, delivering reports and dashboards along with actionable insights on tweaking products according to what the customer wants. This helps companies concentrate budgets and efforts on these critical areas.

One of the biggest contributions of digital technology for organisations is maximising efficiency in everyday operations, processes and, therefore, the products.

There are many service and process optimisation applications that save enterprises both time and money. Digital technology in the form of digital process automation delivers better data management, improved flow, and easier accessibility across the entire organisation.

The ability to sift through massive amounts of data to unearth trends and discern patterns gives enterprises the capability to make better strategic decisions and, in addition, fine-tune their business model as well.

Startups and digital innovation 

Startups seem to embody the “innovate or die” message of the digital world by being among the most agile of all in adopting or developing digital technologies.

No company or department can remain an island in the digital age. In fact, to harness the full potential of digital technology and constantly innovate, a company must shape a culture of learning and collaboration. It must encourage the adoption of automation as an intrinsic factor for success. For innovation to thrive, a culture of diversity, empowerment, and change enablement is ideal.

People are an important part of this digital innovation journey. Every member of the organisation should be committed to innovation in their work, aligning with the company’s goals.

Digital technologies that are changing the game

The largest disruption this past year has happened in the retail and e-commerce space. While online selling was a trend even before 2020, the year and its lockdown mandates gave people twice as many reasons as before to buy everything from sanitisers to soap dispensers online.

If we delve deeper, we see that digital transformation in this space wasn’t a black and white move from offline selling to online sales. It involved shifts in human behaviour, and therefore demand. It involved a change in retailers who were reluctant to move online before. It involved tech and tools that made it easy to move online. Systemic changes are often more sustainable, and digital transformation is no different. The comfort and convenience of online buying will now continue to shape this domain, well after the risks of shopping offline subside.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach, but some elements are common to digital innovation across startups, and these are strategies even incumbents can adopt as part of their digital transformation journey:

  1. Broadening user adoption for digital solutions
  2. Test out newer digital technology applications
  3. Shortlist the more disruptive technologies, experiment with them, and gather insights
  4. Figure out these digital technologies’ market potential and ascertain customer demand.
  5. Monitor customer engagement with digital solutions during the experimental stage as it is difficult to predict without testing just how a customer will interact with a digital innovation
  6. Collate input from the end-users and refine the product or service before bringing it to market.
  7. Design and deploy innovation-related metrics to track success at organisational, individual and operational levels.

The key to digital innovation lies in thinking of it as an ongoing process, making it part of an organisation’s core mission and not a one-off event.


Photo by Matt Palmer on Unsplash