While technological advancements offer organizations the promise of competitive advantage, they can also risk disruption to companies’ ultimate challenge of driving and sustaining growth. Business leaders understand that accelerating innovation and time-to-market is essential to stand out from competitors. Unfortunately, they are finding they lack the technologies and the right people to bring their innovation strategies to life.
New Capabilities Required to Drive Innovation
As the ability to collect and process mountains of data rapidly advances, businesses are finding new ways to restructure the way they operate. By leveraging emerging technologies, organizations can find patterns and draw insights from their data to make better decisions.
Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Data Science, and Cloud Computing have already revolutionized many industries. There are substantial economies of scale from data when AI is leveraged. When data scientists process more data, more accurate conclusions are generated, which in turn increases the demand for the organization’s product or services and further improves their quality.
In addition, as companies move their IT functions, applications, and data processing out of their on-premise data centers to cloud platforms, they also see lower deployment and maintenance costs, higher redundancy, and better security.
The Centrality of Product Management for Innovation and Time-to-Market
With a variety of technical skills in high demand, there also comes a need for people with different skill sets to collaborate effectively. Organizations need product managers to synthesize customer needs, prioritize the right product or service design, and coordinate individuals and functions involved in the product life cycle.
As employers fill more artificial intelligence, cloud, and data analytics positions in their organizations, the need to ensure alignment between diverse functions will grow. Companies will inevitably need more talent in their product team to lead cross-functional teams and accelerate innovation from strategy to execution.
Exploring Product-led Innovation
Product-led innovation is a business methodology where the organization’s growth – user acquisition, conversion, retention, and expansion – are all propelled by the product itself. Product-led companies believe that their success is driven by the quality of their customer experience.
After all, customers don’t buy technology — they buy products that satisfy and delight them. If a company’s product is subpar, investing more in marketing or engineering will not be able to offset the customers’ poor experience. As such, organizations that fail to deliver outstanding product experiences will inevitably fail to retain customers.
Innovation is most successful when teams can respond to the right ideas that could lead to product and market breakthroughs. Organizations need to focus on the most promising ideas, quickly test, validate, and build upon them and deprioritize others.
When employees are equipped with the technical skills to leverage the massive amounts of user data, they’re able to derive insights on what drives growth at the product level and prioritize ideas for innovation accordingly. In addition, because product usage directly grows company revenue, organizations can then assess the ROI of their investments and confirm whether the solutions they’ve implemented are truly delighting their customers.
Accelerating Time-to-Market Through Workplace Learning
Although the application of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and cloud technology is growing rapidly across disciplines and industries, the demand to apply these technologies far exceeds the available skilled-talent pool. Therefore, the most efficient and effective way for organizations to transform their workforce and increase speed to market is to upskill their teams.
Often, organizations spend time and money on learning initiatives, only to find later that employees gained only a superficial understanding from watching online videos. To be effective, training programs must be relevant, practical, and up to date. They must present employees with real-world projects that lead to real skills mastery rather than simple exposure.
Learners should have access to technical mentors who can guide them and answer their questions. Effective learning platforms should also provide the learners with personalized feedback so that they can understand why their answer is wrong or not optimal. This way, learners can emerge fully-equipped to solve real-world business problems and challenges.
Building a Culture of Innovation
While there is no single right way to build a culture of innovation, there are a few strategies organizations can consider when laying the groundwork to accelerate time-to-market.
Companies can empower their leaders to drive change. To gain executive buy-in and make innovation a top priority in your organizations, executives must be informed of different ways successful organizations have leveraged emerging technologies to accelerate time-to-market so that they can see where they can deploy the capabilities to their organization’s advantage.
Organizations can also highlight the different areas in which employees can be involved with innovation and help them add value. New ideas don’t just have to be about developing new products – they can be related to cutting costs, improving design, sourcing, manufacturing, and distribution processes, or re-evaluating policies.
Business leaders must also invest in their employees, and create a safe space for experimentation. Companies won’t be able to simply fall back on hiring new employees as they attempt to future-proof their workforce.
There needs to be a holistic solution that prioritizes new approaches to skills development within an existing workforce. Companies that understand their talent needs and know how to meet them will therefore have a competitive advantage.
In addition, business leaders should serve the needs of their people by enabling them to learn and progress on the job and allowing them to learn from failure without fear of reprisals. Only then can employees be inspired to bring radical solutions to market.
Finally, to build a culture of innovation, organizations must redefine metrics and incentives. Emerging projects often struggle because they’re judged by the same metrics used to evaluate established activities by the business. To truly encourage and embrace experimental strategies, organizations must be willing to redefine how they measure the success of new initiatives.
In today’s digital landscape, accelerating innovation and time-to-market is a competitive imperative. A company’s success depends upon its ability to harness the power of emerging technologies. In addition to a workforce with the technical know-how, organizations also need a robust product management team to align stakeholders and support growth.
By creating a culture of learning where upskilling and experimentation are paramount, business leaders will be able to empower their talent to solve problems, meet customer needs, and seize market opportunities.
Dive deep and learn more in our Accelerating Innovation & Time-to-Market ebook.
Click here to learn more about Udacity’s enterprise offerings.