Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Trade-off: Efficiency and Innovation

I forgot to tell you that the conference I attended last week which I mentioned in my previous entry in this blog was that in the afternoon there was a great debate whether there is a "trade-off" between innovation and efficiency. Before I begin, let us try to define what innovation and efficiency are.

By definition in Merriam-Webster dictionary, innovation is the introduction of something new and is synonymous to creation, invention and coinage to name a few. Efficiency on the other hand coming from the same source is the quality or degree of being efficient. There is not much there, don't you think? :-)

Now let's look at this on an organizational stand point. Innovation in my opinion is the ability of an organization to create something new, something that can affect or change an organization internally and externally. As an example, the creation of a new product like a new software application or a new service like offering text messaging services to followup on a particular document are considered as innovations.

Efficiency on the other hand in my opinion is maximizing the organizations resources and making things run smoothly. It is something measurable and is always tied to input versus output.

On the question if there is a trade-off in anyway? I say "YES". If you do innovation, then you will always risk affecting existing processes, policies and procedure to accommodate such an innovation. Over-all organizational efficiency will suffer. That is the greatest trade-off when you have innovation. Which goes to the next question on whether an organization should go for innovation. The answer depends on how ready the organization is for change. Depending on how flexible and mature an organization is for change will determine the success of an innovation being introduced. YES, we need to innovate. Innovation brings new blood, new life to an organization. If IBM remained as a company making typewriters, do you think they will still be here with the advent of new technologies available? The answer is too obvious.

In one famous case about a big industry before on ice cuting and on how none of the ice cutters eventually evolved into ice makers and eventually none of the ice maker evolved into companies that makes home freezers and refrigerators is a classic example of companies without innovation at all. Which brings me to the term organizational ambidexterity.

Organizational ambidexterity is the ability on an organization to efficiently manage change in the organization and be able to adapt to change in the business environment which affects its survival and growth. Meaning just like a person who is ambidextrous, one should be able to use the left and the right hand with the same level of efficiency. In my opinion, efficiency and innovation are both on the opposite ends of an organization's operation.

Innovation is exploratory in nature while efficiency is exploiting to the least. YES there will always be trade-offs between efficiency and innovation but if the organization is willing to take up the challenge and is ready, trade-offs can be contained or minimized. If an organization is flexible enough and is ready for the change then innovation should explored every time an opportunity comes.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Big Data and Business Intelligance

I was in an important government conference last week which was attended by key ICT Officers coming from both the National and Local Government Organization. I was one of the lead presenter to an Interactive Discussion Table (IDT) together with a former high ranking ICT Officer from the Australian Government. Our topic was on big data and the advantage of having to use Business Intelligence. Although it maybe something new to some, what most of them didn't realize was that in one way or another some have already started making some sort of analysis on information that has been collected for many years.

From simple analysis on gender and age demographics to as complex cross referencing of data across organizations related to spatial information, business analytics is slowly gaining a lot of attention lately. With budgets shrinking year on year and government service delivery exponentially growing due to an ever growing clientele which is very much tied to population by the way, business intelligence will play a key role in analyzing how to rationalize delivery of services to the public.

As a example, imagine being able to cross reference GIS information on road specification and condition to information on traffic, interactively. You will now have a new thought process on what to advise the public and on how to plan and design roads better in the future and what policies to implement and not by just simply guessing but making an intelligent decision backed by real live data. The whole concept on traffic management would be totally be different. Automated data collection coming from crowd sourcing will suddenly make sense and planning would even be more flexible and dynamic.

So going back to big data and business intelligence, of course one has to consider one very key important element here. A person who asks the right questions. Asking the right questions ultimately makes sense on why we collect such information and how we process such information. Until one person asks the right questions and see a clear direction where the organization is going and why, we could be collection petabytes and yottabytes of information with it ending in storage facilities inside the organization or on a cloud facility somewhere and not make sense at all. Well for one, the vendors would love that because the more you collect and store information the more money for them. I'm seeing business intelligence will be one hot topic that will come out from time to time and getting into the mainstream of our country's governance and will be here to stay...