Workplace innovation: Lessons from a tech company
Innovation requires amalgamation of customer benefiting concept along with quick and efficient implementation abilities, says MD of IDeaS Revenue Solutions
Sourabh Gupta, TechGig.com
In today's fast-changing business environment, new ideas are being implemented in workplaces to foster a culture of innovation through collaboration among employees. This trend is stronger in technology companies.
TechGig.com spoke to KS Prashant, managing director, IDeaS Revenue Solutions, a tech company that provides revenue management solutions to hospitality and travel businesses, on how they experimented with innovation and collaboration platforms.
Tell us about your workplace innovations?
We make over a million pricing decisions for hotels around the world every day using high-end cloud-based analytics capabilities.
We have people with varied skill sets at our global tech centre in Pune - from product development engineers to those specialising in front line support, decision support based on analytics, CRM (customer relationship management), and client training - delivering solutions to customers globally.
This combination helps us partake in customer-relevant innovation. One such initiative is Ship IT, our global platform for innovation. It gives our employees an opportunity to collaborate and generate disrupting and incremental ideas which have the potential to impact customer outcomes or transform our internal processes.
The teams work on their ideas over a 24-hour window, every quarter. In last two years, more than 40 ideas from our engineers have been implemented in our products.
The success of Ship IT rests upon identification of the right customer problem and the ability to develop the solution in a manner feasible to be used by the customer. It requires close collaboration within teams.
To do this, we have created some distinct external and internal forums, where new ideas are triggered and augmented by our employees.
For example, our Revenue Managers' Forum brings together practitioners from leading hotels in India to discuss the needs and challenges in their domain.
At an internal level, we hold cross-functional meeting every month to where people from various groups (domain and technology experts) get together to discuss and evolve new ideas. A forum called 'Coding Katta' also helps such cross-functional groups discover new technologies and hone their skills in technology relevant to cloud-based systems.
We have also instituted a programme called TechJam to foster engagement with the larger ecosystem. It gives our employees and other IT professionals in Pune a platform to learn about latest technologies.
Why did you feel the need to implement these changes?
Many relevant ideas in the world do not see the light of the day. There are instances where either domain experts do not come up with something significant as they lack the implementation skills, or the technologists do not come across the right idea to work on. This is what we aim to address through our innovation practices. We try to provide our developers and support engineers with fertile platforms to learn from each other's diverse experiences.
In our view, innovation is productisation of creativity. It requires an amalgamation of customer benefiting concept along with quick and efficient implementation abilities. We've kept this aspect in mind and created the forums for collaboration among various groups.
Why is employee collaboration so important in today's work culture?
A company's performance is not about individual contribution, but about effective teamwork. How we facilitate this process of collaboration is a tough question. There are no set rules of doing it, but if we do it right then employee retention shoots up, as well as the productivity.
It is easy for employees to work in silos. However, we believe it's time that companies break these barriers and let the employees think differently. For a knowledge-intensive organisation as ours, collaboration adequately helps our employees to benefit from knowledge sharing and innovate with cross-pollination of their ideas.
What are your hiring plans?
We are actively hiring domain as well as technology professionals as the company continues to grow and develop our next-generation products and also support the existing products from India.
At present, we see a huge demand for experienced engineering talent with well-rounded business acumen. In addition, professionals in data analytics and big data, enterprise software and revenue management domains are much sought after. Since the products we develop are niche and entail high level of complexity, we are exceedingly stringent in who, and how we hire.
We also regularly hire graduates from select tier-1 engineering colleges.
Do you see gaps in skills or attitudes while hiring?
Our product is based on high-end analytics and state-of-the-art enterprise software technologies. The input requirements for the analytics engine are continuously increasing, which means that we keep enhancing our algorithms while ensuring that they work efficiently.
As the user base, data sources and size of data surge along with new and complex to implement features every release, there is also a need to continuously evaluate and deploy new and relevant technologies into our products. Therefore, there is a constant need for people to adapt to these changes to be able to provide solutions appropriately at various stages of product development.
While there is a baseline skill required for every role, the attitude to continuously learn, try and experiment through collaboration is hugely valued.