Meeting with Russell Group IT Directors and assorted Deputy and Assistant Directors in Oxford at the moment. There's about 30 of us here, and one of the first sessions we had was on Innovation, where we had someone who works in innovation at Virgin Atlantic talking to us.
They are an airline, not a software house. Very light touch in terms of IT, most of it is outsourced. Only have 100 IT staff. They have been voted the leading innovative airline.
Innovation = Invention + Exploitation+ Persistence.
Or, (new things or pragmatic new use of old things) + (get business value out of it) + (keep trying)
IT Lite team were set up to deliver fit for purpose business solutions, tools and models, rapidly . Team were set up outside of normal IT team, with a different culture. Very small, about 5 staff. Speed is very important.
Used 2 plus 2 model:
2 days to define requirements. 2 weeks to deliver working solution.
Used simplified project and product management.
Kept within a suitability filter:
Must have senior sponsor
Must have clear business benefit
Mustn't be business or mission critical
Must have small development effort (30 days max)
No significant impact on IT network and no additional hardware or software required.
In such an innovation team you need all-rounders, and people who can translate IT to business speak. Techies who scrub up well!
Need people who want to own a problem end to end.
Some good examples of what they developed include:
Scheduled flight dashboard
iPad application for pilots
Tactical SMS flight alerts
Disruption support using laptops
Facebook flying club application ( developed by customers)
Social Media Lite
Very Virgin, part of brand value. Customers listen to other customers.
Graph of virgin tweets compared to BA during snow. Virgin are red, BA blue!
Huge growth of followers on Twitter and Facebook.
Very fast way of communicating when things go wrong, eg snow, ash cloud
Also improves search engine results if you get customers talking about you.
App strategy is to have one Virgin App and keep it free.
Very lightweight skinning of website onto mobile devices.
It's not about innovation, it's about business value.
The right culture of strong leadership and considered risk taking needs to exist
Prune early and be selective
Protect and nurture, create sandboxes and a sensible approach to investment
Know your limits and stay within them
Pick your targets, a mix of quick wins and high value wins
Expect success and get ready to turn a service created through an innovation process into a production level service.
Interesting presentation, and setting up this separate group outside of the IT team seemed to work. Wonder if it's something we should try? Especially to tap in to some of the great ideas both our staff and those in the Faculties have. Also co-development with our students, in the same way Virgin have done it with their customers for things like their Facebook app. Tesco have used something similar to develop their shopping baskets with customers. Crowdsourcing might have a role to play?
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