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The IT Innovation Gap in SMEs Robert B. Mellor BSc, MBA, PhD, DSc. Faculty of Computing, Information Systems & Mathematics. Encouraging innovation is important.
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Faculty of Computing, Information Systems & Mathematics
Most SMEs do not have formal IP/IPR (patents etc) and may not be "creative", so growth is powered by "small" innovations – especially in IT.
Rogers (Diffusion of innovators. Free Press, 1962) says innovations diffuse in a population with the help of "Change Agents".
Moore (Inside the tornado. Harper Business, 1995) points to the "Innovation Chasm" in product acceptance.
Organisational web sites
Transport: Mandatory compliance with haulage legislation (mileage etc) and tracking of goods, palettes, etc.
Food: Mandatory compliance with food legislation e.g. tracking of ingredients (fuzzy).
Aerospace: Obligatory documentation e.g. maintenance
IT & Internet: “Control” where IT is part of the “core competencies” gives a convenient baseline
No support from the “official” IT industry, nor by educational lobbies (“e-skills” etc), nor Business Link, etc.
“…Government-funded advice has scant use…”
“…the major difficulty is locating an immediate answer to the precise technical questions that will unlock the next stage of development, from someone who understands the business needs …”
“… stories of great persistence and ingenuity which had achieved stable and workable systems, sometimes in the face of owners who were reluctant to invest… “
“… deployment (of IT) typically depends upon a single individual with vision who takes full responsibility for IT initiatives …”
“… the most challenging aspect of implementation (was) overcoming resistance to change …”
“… (do) not try to force any new technology down peoples throats but … do some active waiting … look for a problem to which your technology is a good solution …”
“ … (don’t) underestimate the X factor, you can be clever, you can have such a good idea, you can be very good at business, but if the people don’t like you, you are never going to make it …”
“… I expect the water from a tap to be clean, so I don’t expect to have to pay a lot of money for a filter…” (director commenting on lack of anti-virus SW on his connection to his ISP).
“…Internet is an icon on my desktop; I double click and it opens, what’s the big deal? Why should Internet cost me so much?” (director wanting a web-site built).
Trust and/or understanding of the (technical) issues is present.
The IT individual is (even perhaps nominally and isolated) part of the consensus group.
Understanding of the (technical) issues is not present. Trust is lacking (especially if explaining with a foreign accent)
Communication has broken down because the IT innovator is not part of the consensus group.
Persistent innovators can go directly to Director level, however:
Multi-specialists, e.g. an engineer with an MBA, or a chemist with a MSc in IT, are responsible for around 40 times more innovations (mostly incremental innovations), than people with a single specialization.
Highly educated foreigners/ex-pats in the correct environment, may be responsible for between 60 and 80 times more innovations (mostly incremental innovations), than native people with a single specialization, or around twice that of a multi-skilled native.
They are often multi-skilled + have endured the Darwinist rigours of internationalism and thus are indeed fire-hardened expert and creative problem solvers.