Operations innovation is not product centric

Not all innovation is product based. In fact, product innovation is a very narrow slice of a much broader spectrum of innovation that’s possible.

Operations is particularly rich in non-product based innovation. Innovation in operations can take many diverse forms. For example:

  • A complex process is simplified by eliminating critical swivel-chair user interactions
  • An inventory system is modified to correctly track Work In Progress according to a key financial strategy
  • Response processing improved through innovative dynamic indexing built into a storage schema
  • Vendors are motivated to increase the accuracy of accounts payable by reversing the swim lanes on an invoicing process

None of these are products. They are feature, process, and integration-based innovations.

Here’s a real-world example. QA teams in an engineering organization I worked with recently are frequently challenged to track and resolve complex, intermittent issues that are not consistently reproducible. To help with this, developers added innovative functions to the environment that enable the internal user to click ‘record’ at the exact time of issue occurrence. This action creates a ticket in the tracking system, and then -critically- pulls and attaches logs from the processing environment at that moment, to the ticket. A confirmation is then sent to the user with the ticket details.

The innovation required integration with between several systems, including voice recognition and Jira. A new internal API provides container level details like address, user email, etc. That service is integrated with infrastructure services to get device logs from the processing environment to attach to the Jira ticket. XAPI sends an alert back to user that a ticket was created for the issue.

A large majority of innovation is not product based. The challenge is that, for most marketing and sales organizations, innovation is strictly defined as product innovation. This makes sense, since product innovation is directly visible to the customer. It’s critical that we measure and quantify the value of non-product based innovation in order to drive data-driven conversations with business leadership for investment in potentially high-impact areas of the organization.

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