Innovate or hesitate

In an industry that touts ‘outside of the box’ thinking Sean Robson wonders if what is really required is just some critical thinking.

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By  Sean Robson Published  November 5, 2008

It’s the nature of my job that I attend a number of PR events, product launches and exhibitions. Some are interesting and some are, to be honest, less so; however, they all have one thing in common. At some point someone will get up and use the word ‘innovative’ or a derivative thereof.

It’s usually used in conjunction with another favourite phrase in the region, ‘early adopters’. You see, apparently, the Middle East is full of innovative people, products and solutions all on the verge of being picked up en masse by the regions ‘early adopters’.

What does it take to be innovative? Does it involve creating revolutionary new products? Re-jigging an old solution to be more effective or is it taking a risk and stepping away from the herd?

In terms of the early adoption bonhomie, much is made of the fact that IT managers and CIOs in the region are unafraid of embracing new technologies and implementing the latest solutions in the market.

That is all well and good, but no matter what newspapers are reporting and real estate companies are saying there is a financial crisis out there and it is lapping at our shores. Spending for the sake of spending is screeching to a halt and the role players are going to have to start proving that there is true ‘innovation’ in the products that they are so keen to purchase.

Innovation does not mean being first to pick up on a new solution or even to develop it. It means developing or creating something that adds value to the market and is more efficient than what is presently in the space.

To my mind, innovation means being smarter when it comes to utilising those assets you already own and showing some savvy when it comes to adopting new assets. To be sure, this region’s IT professionals do not have an easy task ahead of them, they will be required to do more with less and explore creative ways of achieving the enterprise’s business goals.

Look at the hot, new technology in the network space at the moment, virtualisation. Barely a week goes by without a vendor talking about the newest in virtualisation strategies or appliances but the reality is that it may not be as innovative as they profess.

Virtualisation has been around in some shape or form for more than twenty years and thus what is being touted may or may not really be that impressive and even useful. The IT professional needs to carefully examine each proposal that flies across the desk before becoming one of the so-called ‘early adopters’ of a product that is actually quite late in arriving.

During a recent exhibition held in Dubai, much mention was made of IPTV technology and the consumer possibilities associated with it. I was able to grab a few minutes with one of the speakers at the event and we discussed the possible business applications of a technology that is predominantly seen as a consumer product.

IPTV holds a lot of potential for businesses in terms of network connectivity and the ability to communicate information. Employees could be reached right at the desktop with interactive presentations and also take their content with them wherever they go. It will take real innovation to see the possibilities and leverage these less than traditional technologies for enterprise purposes and by doing so would define these IT managers as true early adopters.

The convergence between enterprise and consumer technologies is nothing new but it takes some agility, forethought and gumption to see the opportunity for what it is and then take the leap.

New technologies, old technologies, consumer products and enterprise offerings are all claiming to be innovative. The truth is the innovation needs come from the men and woman responsible for the IT.

I am all for early adoption. Let’s adopt innovation.

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