Thursday, April 09, 2009

IT Innovation at Small Bakery

Can your IT department innovate like this bakery? asks Mark Raskino (Gartner) via Sally Bean. Mark describes an East London bakery that uses Twitter to notify its customers whenever freshly baked bread comes out of the oven.

The system involves a specially designed wall-mounted device that the bakers can operate with one hand, while holding a tray of bread with the other.

Mark clearly doesn't think most IT departments would be comfortable with this kind of system. So I asked Mark and Sally who would lead that kind of innovation in a typical IT department. Would it be the business analysts? The enterprise architects?

The trouble is that many people in those kind of IT roles have been trained to value abstraction and adaptability above everything else, and to avoid thinking about mundane technology when building pure business models. But how often does that kind of abstract thinking produce concrete innovations like this bakery? In many organizations it is quite the opposite - technology-driven opportunistic change to the business model is discouraged because it runs contrary to prevailing thinking. And as Mark points out, corporate IT departments don't like purpose-designed hardware. This system is not designed for adaptability, it is designed to improve the business.

So this project was driven by a marketing agency. Business innovation may depend on the latest technology; but wouldn't it be a disgrace if it turned out that the most innovative companies are those too small to have an IT department?

1 comment:

Opher Etzion said...

Some thoughts about this issue -