Monday, June 12, 2006

Innovation & Architecture

BusinessWeek suggests that "making innovation work is the single most important business challenge in our era." What does that mean in terms of IT? In my opinion, business executives had better figure out how they're going to tap into innovative architectural creative thinking. That means using resources to pull together IT architectures which will have an impact that is broad and deep.

Businesses and industries will be affected by the fact that already today more transistors are being produced annually than grains of rice -- and at a lower cost. There already exists in the world over 2 billion mobile phones and almost 1 billion PCs. Designing robust, adaptive IT architectures is the core competence needed by organizations that intend on using information and communication technology to connect to the global grid. If your organization doesn't yet grasp the importance of architecture as a way to open people's mind to the wide world that lies ahead, then you're toast.

Designing innovative IT architecture requires visionary talent. Architects are the people responsible for bridging the chasm between the cultures of business and technology. Companies must transform themselves from IT cultures driven by cost and quality control to enterprises that profit from creative IT thinking.

Innovation was the original cornerstone underlying information technology. But ever since Y2K and then the dot com boom and bust, followed by 9/11, enterprise IT innovation has pretty much stagnated. Nevertheless, technology has continued its inexorable march forward with ever more transistors on a single chip and ever more bandwidth -- both wired and wireless -- and ever more storewidth.

It's time for businesses to once again begin using information and communication technology to innovate. Success will depend on turning architecture into a core methodology of innovation. Forward-thinking leaders must educate, inspire, cajole, hire, bribe, punish, build -- all to transform their companies' cultures. Their job is to tear down silos, mix people up, bring in outside change agents, stimulate people's minds, and generate a diversified portfolio of promising ideas.

One critical core concept to understand is that good ideas about IT architecture can come from everywhere and anywhere. What's essential is that every important idea -- every project, every deadline -- all be accessible on the intranet to everyone who has a need to know -- all easily accessible in a way that requires minimal, if any, formal training.

Innovative architecture does not mean instant perfection. Architecture naturally evolves over time. What's most important, however, is understanding that people naturally need a vision along with a plan on how to get to that vision, as well as real and reasonable deadlines. As Google's vice president for search products and user experience, Marissa Mayer, says: "Worry about usage and users, not money. Provide something simple to use and easy to love. The money will follow." Mayer has been a Champion of Innovation longer than most. She's a big reason why Google functions as a single, open network where Googlers can look for those working on similar technologies, find relevant expertise, or join projects.


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