10th December 2019 | Ben

Data, Technology & IT, Marketing strategy

When Innovation Becomes Impossible

I am increasingly of the opinion that businesses get to a point whereby innovation becomes impossible. They may possess the wish and willingness to update, adapt and change systems but when it comes to the execution of change, they meet with too many obstacles and end up having to cut corners or not bother at all.  

The key hurdles appear to be too many clients, too many processes or simply too much data. And whilst my opinion is based on having witnessed a handful of recent client-side projects struggle, we don’t have to look too far back in corporate history to see far bigger innovation failures. Let’s take TSB and BA as examples.

TSB undertakes an upgrade project which results in them bringing down their entire system for days, costing them hundreds of thousands in compensation and missed payments. Meanwhile, over at BA a project to create a more innovative check in process ended up doubling the average check in time, creating queues in airports around the globe and much derision on social media. The solution was to scrap the changes and revert to the old system!

Ground Up Innovation

So perhaps we are at a stage whereby only the newest, smallest, youngest organisations can be truly innovative and build their systems from the ground up using the latest technologies.

Recent attempts to retro fit mailing preference centres into two clients have both met with showstoppers caused by the cost or inflexibility of internal (IT) systems. Yes, they could change the internal systems, but it becomes a vicious circle – see TSB and BA above. And at what point do you countenance the cost and upheaval of total internal system change to facilitate the development of a mailing preference centre… and so the change comes to a halt.

It seems to me that older companies that have grown organically and responded to changing customer expectations by bolting on systems and processes, have painted themselves into a corner and are now unable to change. Whereas those that designed a customer journey from the outset, and developed the applications and processes around that, can respond and continue innovating. But this adaptability appears to be a characteristic reserved for those that have ‘grown up’ in the internet generation.

Meeting Customer Expectations

From a marketing perspective, we customers have an expectation of a tailored experience and interaction with our service providers. But at what point do we care that some are slick and fully automated whilst others are swans, giving the impression of serenity, all the while paddling like crazy behind the scenes to keep the whole thing in motion?  

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