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Why businesses need innovation to stay relevant, and how they can start

24 Apr 2017

We hear so much about innovation.  People use the term to imply that whatever they are doing is new, revolutionary and cool.

One of the key tenets to innovation is a willingness to be open to new ideas that improve and change the way we do things.

Unfortunately, humans are creatures of habit and many are suspicious of change.

Organisations are even more averse to change and will attempt to modify behaviour only when it is too late.

Businesses cite various reasons for maintaining their status quo, including: ‘We have market share’, ‘we’re too big to change’, ‘change will affect share price’, ‘we are the leader and customers are loyal’, and ‘our customers don’t like change’.

Often, they use their size and legal means to stifle innovative competition.

There is a never ending list of excuses - just ask Eastman Kodak, Borders, or Blockbuster.

Ironically, the legacy technology industry and people who work in it are among those most averse to change.

It seems they are hell bent on maintaining the status quo and their reasons, which might seem valid at face value, are not.

Not so long ago, we were hearing things like: ‘virtualisation will never become mainstream’,  ‘we will never virtualise our production network’, or ‘databases can’t be virtualised’.

In IT, a spectrum of reasons can stifle innovation: vendor lock-in, proprietary hardware, competition lockout, issues if ‘unsupported’ technology is used, and the peach: ‘No-one was ever fired for buying IBM’ - this mantra has evolved in the data storage world to include EMC.

Years ago, these claims may have been relevant, but with today’s innovations, they are far from the truth.

From my own experience, IT architects are often forced by C-level to implement technology from legacy vendors even when they know that better, less expensive, and more innovative solutions are available.

Some feel they need to support old technologies and protect their intellectual property and knowledge, simply to ensure that they can keep their jobs.

Clouding the issue is ‘pseudo innovation’. Just because someone buys a new version of the same old technology doesn’t mean they are being innovative.

For example, look at your environment. Are you still beholden to monolithic, ‘gorilla’ storage vendors because it is a safe choice, or because they are actually helping to transform your business? Any product that locks you into a single vendor and creates silos lacks true innovation and is potentially holding your business to ransom while inhibiting growth and transformation

Ask some simple questions next time a storage vendor talks about renewals or forklift upgrades – ‘How will this help me to cut costs, reduce complexity and improve performance, availability and reliability?’ Is it just a replacement or will it help to transform my business? And finally, explain how you have innovated?

Aside from getting faster, cheaper and larger technologies for accessing data, our disks, storage, backup, replication and archival have not changed in decades. 

Legacy vendors are stifling innovation simply to maintain their bottom line while keeping users locked into proprietary products.

In this arena, it is not the fittest who survive, it is people who are open to change and adapt based on their needs and environment.

So take the first step – keep an open mind, investigate new ways of doing the same old things by questioning everything, especially the status quo. 

If you see innovative technology and you feel there are benefits to you and your organisation, test, test and test, then dip your toe into the water.

Once you have confidence in the innovation, move forward and take the leap.

Innovation is not simply about financial benefits, it is about gaining a competitive advantage. 

So leap!

Article by Sal Fernando, Chief Architect Asia Pacific, ioFABRIC

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