3 Rules for Innovation

This item was originally published by Forbes, where Raj Sethuraman is a member of the Forbes Technology Council.

There’s a good chance you’re reading this article on your smartphone -- maybe multitasking between a few different apps as you do so. Ten years ago, that wouldn’t have been possible. Not only has technology evolved substantially in the last decade, but the rate of change has ramped up exponentially as well. Increasingly, consumers have great tech at their fingertips, which helps make them more efficient and productive. As a result, they expect their business applications to be as functional as their personal ones.

Creating new tech for the sake of new tech is not the point. Instead, tech should be an enabler. No matter the buzzword -- artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data -- the end goal is always delivering value for users. To ensure cutting-edge technology is implemented to this end, it’s important to understand industry trends at large and to have an insatiable hunger for understanding your users’ problems. This new, fast-paced tech frontier can be a bit daunting at first, so I’ve outlined three ways advanced technologies are accelerating innovation -- and what they mean for you.

1. Move from product to platform.

One of the biggest transformations in technology delivery is the fact that product-based models have gone out the window. With the world moving at such a rapid speed, big, stand-alone products are dinosaurs. The overarching trend is for tech companies to move from product-based to platform-based now -- wrapping in services and allowing for easy integration with other solutions. As a result, your technology capabilities are embedded in user workflows and are much more impactful. But also, third-party developers can build additional capabilities on top of your platform. This creates a cycle that prioritizes user feedback and speed at the same time.

2. Focus on UX.

Any platform should put the user first from a design perspective, too. Users must be able to easily navigate the platform and use it to make decisions, regardless of whether they’re working from a laptop, desktop or mobile device. A good user experience should include support as well. Chatbots, which tend to run on machine learning, are prime examples of a technology that’s transforming user interactions. But UX isn’t just the look and feel of a platform; it also encompasses more tangible concerns like security. Features like multifactor authentication are no longer optional and are just as important as ease of use.

3. Data is king.

The buzz around data has been growing for years -- and rightfully so. It is crucial that organizations leverage data both internally and externally. For one, you need to provide users with the tools they require to make better data-driven decisions -- for example, solutions powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning can provide organizations with actionable recommendations and automate mundane, time-consuming tasks. Providing such capabilities to users, and listening to their feedback on how they work, will drive business growth. The feedback will help improve your platform and reduce churn. Across industries, investments in data strategy continue to chug higher. If your platform doesn’t offer users insights smoothly, securely and quickly, they’ll find one that does.

These are three broad trends being driven by advanced technologies. I’ve kept them broad intentionally because new technologies are popping up every day and will continue to do so. But you don’t have to rush to embrace each and every one, especially if it means implementing technologies without thinking strategically about user needs and UX.

Instead, experiment with new technologies first and see how they fit into the technology goals and business outcomes of you and your users alike. The worst thing you can do in this fast-paced world of innovation is to start spinning your wheels in an attempt to be cutting-edge -- and lose the big picture as a result. Still, these three trends -- the move to platforms, the importance of UX and the predominance of data -- aren’t going anywhere and are prerequisites for navigating this new frontier.


About The Author

Raj Sethuraman

Raj Sethuraman is focused on delivering enterprise platforms that leverage technology, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, data analytics and more, to improve productivity and business growth for global legal and claims teams. As CTO, Raj oversees all product engineering and software development activities of the 225+ global technology team at Wolters Kluwer's ELM Solutions.

Raj has substantial leadership experience in managing software development teams with global companies, including Intuit Inc., United Health Care Group, Brillo Inc., and Agilent Technologies. Raj is a graduate of Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program. He earned his MBA from the University of Southern California, a Master of Science from the SJCE School of Engineering in Mysore, India, and a Bachelor of Science in Electronics and Instrumentation from Annamalai University in Chidambaram, India.