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How technology can help your company innovate

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Innovation and technology go hand in hand—that pretty much goes without saying. But it’s true in ways that may surprise you.

Technology is usually associated with world-changing innovations that revolutionize how we live. But technology can also play a big role in the smaller scale, incremental improvements that are the real bread and butter of business innovation.

Focus on challenges

It can be useful to focus your innovation efforts on areas where you have recurring challenges, such as poor product design, excessive inventory or poor communication between sales and operations. Also consider what innovations you will need to achieve your strategic plan.

Next, research which technologies may help you solve your issues. Be sure to get feedback from employees, customers and suppliers, both about your innovation needs and possible technological solutions.

Involving employees early on will also help ensure their buy-in for whatever technology you decide to bring in. Also look into what your peers are doing. And if you lack internal expertise, consider hiring a technology consultant to advise you.

Innovation and technology go hand in hand—that pretty much goes without saying. But it’s true in ways that may surprise you.

Technology is usually associated with world-changing innovations that revolutionize how we live. But technology can also play a big role in the smaller scale, incremental improvements that are the real bread and butter of business innovation.

How tech can help

Here are four ways technology can help your company be more innovative.

Improve communications

Innovation is a team effort so it depends on good communication and collaboration. Cloud and mobile technology can help workers communicate and collaborate when they’re in the field, working remotely or stationed in different offices.

On the cloud, they can work together on a single document, seeing and discussing each other’s contributions. That, in turn, could assist in fostering a flexible and stimulating workplace in which your team is motivated to generate innovations.

Manage ideas

You can use idea management software to systematize your innovation efforts. Such software includes tools for employees to suggest and work together on ideas, choose promising ones and develop them into new products or improvements in your operations.

These software can include social networking tools to promote collaboration and metrics to track your innovation performance.

Track performance

It’s hard to know where to innovate if you don’t know what you’re doing well and where you need to improve. Technology can help you monitor performance metrics so you can better target your innovation efforts.

For example, a dashboard can help your team track key performance indicators and compare how you’re doing against industry benchmarks. That should provide good starting points for finding places to innovate.

Say you discover your customers are slow to pay. You could implement paperless billing and ask customers to pay electronically.

You can use a dashboard to test various innovations and optimize the implementation.

Monitor customer feedback

Technology can help you get better feedback from customers and analyze it more effectively. That can lead to innovations in product design, marketing and customer relations.

For example, you can use social media to solicit customer feedback, quickly test reaction to new products and create a more personalized consumer experience.

Improve products

Technology can help you be more innovative in your operations and product development. For example, 3-D imaging technology can let your customers visualize a product before it’s made and help you expand into new product lines.

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