7 Strategies To Drive Innovation Into Software Development
The saying goes that you can’t solve a problem with the same thinking used when creating it in the first place.
This applies to the world of business as much as anywhere else: to continue growing, companies need to think outside the box. In order to survive and reach new heights, all businesses need to evolve and try new things — they need to innovate.
Software development has grown exponentially in the last few decades. The technology is now so powerful that to scale your business. you need to drive innovation into every product and service that you create. Today, innovation is more than just a buzzword — it’s the thin line that sets successful businesses apart from everyone else.
Though most businesses are born from an adventurous and entrepreneurial mindset, they tend to mellow with time. They become less forward-thinking, more cautious, and can eventually find themselves in a bit of a rut. To stay at the top of their game, businesses need to step out of their comfort zone and breed a culture of innovation among employees, encouraging them to be creative in ideas.
This is particularly crucial in software development. Instead of getting stuck in that rut, let’s look at a few different opportunities to drive innovation within your business.
1. Build your own offshore software development team
Rapidly changing markets have driven a need for ongoing innovation. That, in turn, has helped popularise the concept of offshoring, which has become a go-to strategy for companies which want to optimise innovation, execution, and cost.
Countries like India, Ukraine, and Brazil produce world-class engineers in software development. By hiring developers and building your offshore team in one of these countries, your business significantly reduces development costs (thanks to the lower cost of living) without compromising an inch when it comes to the quality of output.
It’s no coincidence that more companies than ever are investing in research and innovation: they’re trying desperately to get ahead of the curve and take their place on the bleeding edge of technology. Investing in developing your own offshore team gives you a powerful resource of developers who, since they cost less to hire, can spend more time pushing boundaries in your industry.
2. Give your employees ‘thinking time’
Innovation requires time and patience. When your staff spend 100% of their hours delivering client work, it leaves them without any time to just think and breed creative ideas. And that’s where a lot of innovation happens.
Recognising this flaw, a growing number of companies are now building ‘thinking’ or ‘creative’ time into their employees’ schedules. The hope is that this helps generate innovative ideas to drive the business forward.
One option is to hold innovation days where employees can come together and participate in conversations and brainstorming sessions around being more creative with the products they build. Accenture Ireland ran their ‘Festival of Ideas’, an employee engagement activity where 1,400 employees brainstormed on creative ideas for their business: after the event, the top 10 ideas were implemented across the company!
You can even organise hackathon sessions or set aside a set amount of time for each employee every day, so they can work on developing and testing new ideas. For example, Google — possibly the most innovative company in the world — is famous for insisting that employees devote 20% of their time to creative side projects.
3. Invest in implementing ideas
True innovation doesn’t just require companies to establish a culture that supports new and creative ideas — it requires companies to go the extra mile and actually implement them!
For instance, Vodafone launched an innovation initiative called “1,000 Small Things”. Through this initiative, employees were asked to make one improvement within their daily job, regardless of how small or insignificant it might seem. Vodafone also noted all of these ‘small things’ down.
In doing so, Vodafone not only created a vast library of subtle improvements which could be made to enhance their customer experience, but they also incorporated the ideas. This exercise went a long way in increasing employee and customer engagement like never before.
Encourage your team to take that step and give life to their ideas. By helping them build that bridge from innovative thinking to execution, you are encouraging a culture that stresses continuous improvement. Empowerment like this can do wonders for your business.
4. Recognize and reward great performance
One of the best ways to keep employees working hard towards success is by rewarding their efforts. When your team is putting in significant time and energy into building your products and services, simply acknowledging that effort is an excellent method of motivating everyone.
Recognition and appreciation are often linked to big bonuses, but it doesn’t have to be so extravagant. For example, employees can be rewarded with a variety of things like more flexible work hours, movie tickets, or the chance to develop one of their personal ideas into a proper project.
And how does this relate to innovation? Happier, fulfilled employees are universally more productive than underappreciated and overworked.
5. Create a functional workspace
Something that is often overlooked by software development companies is the kind of work environment created for staff.
The Gensler U.S Workplace Survey conducted in 2016 found that innovation was directly linked to high-performing workplaces which not only prioritised group working spaces, but also those of each individual employee. It also found that innovative thinkers are more likely to brainstorm in communal and outdoor spaces — something we’re seeing more and more of in modern workspaces!
Simply put, an effective workspace can be one of the key factors in driving innovation within your business.
6. Give employees permission to fail
When staff are worried about punishment (working overtime, perhaps even losing their job) they will never comfortable enough to take the plunge and develop a really creative idea. By excessively penalising mistakes, it’s easy to put your staff slightly on-edge; to make them just a bit too cautious.
And if you’re looking for innovation, cautiousness isn’t not going to help.
It’s also important to encourage brainstorming and idea generation. You can create specific times and places where “there are no bad ideas” — leverage this creative freedom to bring real innovation into your company. And when something does go wrong, turn it into a positive. You need to make sure staff understand any ramifications of what went wrong, but that if it’s still used it as a learning experience, then that’s okay.
7. Lead from the front
The first steps towards innovation come from the top — from the leaders.
Leaders are responsible for creating the psychological environment which sustains innovation at all levels. As an organisation grows, layers of management can create a barrier between leaders and the developers on the ground — you can’t afford this to happen.
You can build a real sense of trust and dependability among everyone in your company by simply showing face and interacting with your developers now and then. This goes for managers as well as directors: if you are seen to be embracing creativity and acknowledging your employees, they’re more likely to perform.
Software development will always continue to compete through innovation. The challenge lies in either coming up the ideas in the first place or in finding the right team members to implement them.