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Innovation Over Operation: Unleash the Smartest Minds on Your Team

Businesses are like Broadway productions. The mission and vision captivate their audience, and C-level managers are often the public-facing stars of the performance. But every great performance needs those unseen heroes: stagehands, stylists, and sound engineers — the people who make sure everything runs smoothly behind the scenes. In a company, the stagehands are the IT team. Without them, nothing would run the way it should. But the question remains: are the talents of these team members being used to their full potential?

The sad truth is that many IT teams are so busy with operational work that they don’t have much time for anything else. In fact, IT teams and data specialists spend 44% of their time on tasks and activities that simply keep the company up and running. Without any change, this problem will only get worse. Workloads are growing, and only a fraction of repeatable processes have been automated.

IT workers are some of the smartest, most creative people within their companies. However, the expectations put on them are a stark contrast to their abilities and potential. They are often asked to work on a schedule doing repetitive tasks that are to be completed on time and to a high standard. In many instances, they’re required to complete high volumes of work with minimal resources. More often than not, IT teams are expected to finish a job, even if it is unreasonable or impossible. If these expectations continue and workers aren’t given opportunities to use their creativity, they will ultimately burn out or lose interest in their jobs.

If IT teams struggle, entire companies suffer. When productivity and creativity are hampered, the growth of companies will become stagnant. If no intentional change occurs when it comes to utilizing technology specialists, the businesses they work for can become stuck with systems that are more harmful than helpful, distracted by seemingly urgent matters rather than focusing on the most important things.

How To Make Impactful Changes

So, how can companies prevent themselves from making the mistake of underutilizing their IT teams? There are many ways, but here are a few of the most practical we’ve found:

Organize data.

Data can be overwhelming and hard to manage. Not surprisingly, this difficult and time-consuming task usually falls on IT teams. Instead of leaving that responsibility to the IT staff, companies should utilize software that automatically consolidates and organizes data. Panzura CloudFS does just that. It even makes a company’s data available everywhere to everyone all the time. Using this software is a perfect way to free up time for IT teams to lead business-critical innovation in other areas.

Plan ahead.

Data is a precious resource. Unfortunately, there’s no shortage of threats to data. Companies should plan for the inevitable and protect their data before it gets attacked or deleted. IT teams shouldn’t be solely responsible for restoring data their companies neglect to protect. CloudFS provides an immutable storage system that protects data from ransomware and other cyber threats, which means that it can always be restored no matter what happens to data. 

Pay attention.

Companies should know what their IT teams are doing. But rather than using this information to micromanage, company leaders should look for inefficiencies and identify areas for improvement. If technology is available to shorten the time spent on regular operations, leaders and managers can reclaim valuable time by implementing those tools. The resources available to companies through technology enable them to free up IT teams for other tasks.

Eliminating repetitive, manual processes is a powerful way to give IT teams the freedom to focus on innovation. Panzura makes this possible by taking the complex and making it simple. Through data deduplication and organization, Panzura creates one data set — a single source of truth — from which an entire company can work. This data set maintains local-feeling performance, meaning it looks the same for every user, no matter where they are.

Beyond being incredibly convenient, Panzura’s CloudFS is extremely smart and secure. Rather than using backups or disaster recovery, our patented global file system is an immutable storage system that can recover files from snapshots. So, even if a file is deleted or attacked by ransomware, it can be fully recovered. Additionally, CloudFS can store data where it can be analyzed by authorized machine learning and AI apps.

CloudFS’s game-changing capabilities allow it to complete processes that usually take days and weeks in minutes and hours. And it does all of it without burdening IT teams. Ultimately, CloudFS enables IT teams to do more creative things rather than work on mundane tasks. So, how can companies capitalize on this opportunity and foster that creativity? Great question.

Creating a Culture of Innovation

Companies can encourage creativity by building operational innovation into their culture. Operational innovation involves coming up with new processes and systems for a company. It can look like finding new ways to fill orders, develop products, or provide services. All these changes can feel uncomfortable at first. Change — even positive change — usually does. It requires businesses to step away from the familiar and comfortable and pursue something new and different. The good news is that change at this level will have a ripple effect that improves business performance at every level of a company.

So, why is operational innovation so important? When companies make it part of their culture, they gain a competitive advantage and develop a reputation for delivering high-quality products and services. When this happens, their competitors will constantly be scrambling to catch up. As a culture of innovation takes root, the positive impact leads to lasting change that reshapes the future of the business.

It’s also important to remember that the benefits of operational innovation go beyond the company itself, extending to individual employees as well. However, employees must be provided with proper training, education, and support to help them adapt to new ways of operating. If done correctly, team members at every level of a company will feel empowered to speak up with new ideas. Employees will feel more invested in their company because they have a say in how things run. Overall, these fundamental changes can lead to a more engaged company culture.

How To Promote Operational Innovation

Operational innovation doesn’t happen overnight. It takes intentional planning and strategic implementation. But, if companies can engage their employees in the process, those companies will change for the better!

Encourage big ideas.

Innovation can’t happen without big ideas, so companies should prioritize generating them. They can start by looking for any areas that need improvement. Then, they should put aside how they usually do things and think of new ways to carry out their processes.

Look for inspiration.

It can be intimidating for an organization to see everything its competitors do to achieve success. Instead of being intimidated by competitors, businesses should be inspired by them. Rather than simply copying ideas that work for others, effective leaders search for underlying strategies and processes they can tailor to their own culture.

Identify and overcome barriers.

Every company has its barriers. Operational innovation identifies those barriers in order to develop creative ways to overcome them. Employees should be encouraged to create and share solutions for those barriers. The result will be a work environment full of critical thinkers eager to rise to the challenge.

It’s also important for companies to identify any barriers that may keep them from implementing change. Companies should do their best to remove any barriers to innovation. If they don’t, they risk becoming stagnant — or worse yet, irrelevant. 

Redefine existing processes.

Not every process needs to be replaced. It’s possible that a company is doing a lot of things well and only requires a few minor adjustments. If that’s the case, the company should look for new ideas that can be incorporated into the current processes. However, it’s crucial that any new ideas are implemented cohesively with those existing processes and systems.

Track progress.

Companies that implement new ideas should monitor the success or failure of those ideas. Not every change will work, so tracking the progress of innovation allows those leading the charge to adjust accordingly. Creating benchmarks and key performance indicators makes it easier to track the impact of changes they integrate.

Operational innovation promotes creativity throughout a company. IT teams are hired with a specific skill set that lends itself to innovation. While certain tasks are essential, leaders should do their best to avoid overloading their IT teams busy with mundane, repetitive, operational work that could be easily automated with the right technology. IT workers can do far more than keep the lights on. Given the opportunity, they can be a core driver of the organization’s overall success.