London Tech Week 2018: Embracing digital disruption

London Tech Week (LTW) has been upon us once more and our Technology practice has been all over the city finding out what is making the industry tick this year. For the next few weeks, TechMunch will be sharing our collective learnings via a number of snappy blog posts from our tech-teamers. Rumour has it that AI, digitalisation, innovation, IoT and the role of creativity in technology will be hot on the agenda.

Kicking off the series with the below blog post, Ben Fletcher, Emily Ballard and Tom Ball share their main takeaways from a panel discussion looking at: “Embracing digital disruption”.

Members of the panel:

  • Jacob Howard, VP, BTB Marketing, Deutsche Bank
  • Rebekah Tailor, Communications and Engagement Manager, NHS Innovation Accelerator
  • Anne Vigouroux, Senior Marketing Strategist, AXA
  • James Taylor, MD, DriveNow
  • Sophie Cartwright, Industry Marketing Manager, Facebook

Business innovation starts from within

While consumers are ever searching for the latest technology advancements, it seems the process of innovation starts long before a new product or service is put in front of the consumer, or even developed internally. Rebekah Tailor highlighted that the first step of innovation is to get employees and the company culture onboard with change. From the get-go, employees must understand that change and innovation is positive, where people should be inspired by the possibilities ahead of them, not the negative changes that could happen in the immediate future. Sophie Cartwright added that employees need to be constantly thinking “what if”, rather than “why bother” which requires a systemic change throughout the business.

According to Jacob Howard, one way of achieving this is ensuring that an aspect of innovation is included in every employee job spec and function. Ultimately, innovation shouldn’t rely on one person or a siloed “innovation team”; it’s everyone’s responsibility to bring new ideas to the table and find ways of improving the company offering. Placing innovation at the heart of day-to-day operations, therefore, is key.

Innovation is also about plugging the gaps

Businesses are constantly being pulled in different directions by the lure of “the new” – new offerings, new opportunities and new arenas to compete in. But these ambitions could be leading businesses astray. Anne Vigouroux gave an important reminder that the customer should do the talking. Customers tell you where change and improvement is needed which, for many businesses, should act as a guide on where to apply innovation to reward the greatest impact. Real innovations plug gaps, not ignore old problems or gloss over issues with the buzz of new gimmicky “innovations”.

Backing up this, James Taylor provided a real life example. He identified a time when the call-centre of his business was inundated with calls from customers struggling to end their car-sharing bookings and being overcharged. His team worked on finding a solution to this common problem by making small but significant changes to its existing app. Changing the existing system transformed the cancelling process, slashing call-centre enquiries and vastly improving the customer experience. The reality is that some of the most potent innovations come from enhancing existing processes, not just in creating new ones.

Positioning innovation to stakeholders

Although consumers are constantly pushing businesses to develop and innovate, it’s common that the wider stakeholder mix resists change. So how do you communicate the need for change successfully to a broader stakeholder group?

Rebekah Tailor gave the example of the NHS. An organisation with a huge variety of stakeholders. The NHS Innovation Accelerator fosters an innovative environment by making small changes to its approach. It doesn’t use the word “innovation”, instead uses “solution”, as this leads to an environment of nurturing which welcomes answers to problems from across the business.

Facebook, according Sophie Cartwright, uses a similar technique, educating internal stakeholders first on the need for innovation and also why this change is important for the wider business. This is all done before taking the solution to external audiences who may have originally pushed for these changes.

Overall the world is becoming more and more about transparency and therefore brands need to communicate internally, as importantly as externally, as much as possible.

Ben Fletcher, Emily Ballard & Tom Ball, Technology