Three myths Nigerian firms should bust to drive innovation in 2018 and beyond

By Adebayo Sanni 

Today, every business knows that just keeping the lights on, is not enough. Companies should deliver innovation to remain competitive, which is easier said than done. Oracle’s recent You & IaaS research found that while 72 percent of businesses agree that migrating infrastructure to the cloud makes it easier to innovate, only 36 percent are actively doing so.

Nigeria has only recently emerged from its first economic recession in more than two decades, which has seen many organisations relook their IT spend and question what technology is right for their business, while reducing cost. This has allowed for improved cloud uptake and plenty of room for growth, with Nigeria now expected to surpass South Africa and Kenya in terms of cloud adoption this year.

Today, the Nigerian economy is bolstered by a thriving small to medium enterprise (SME) community that makes up over 90% of the market, with many engaging in business that can only be made possible through cloud technology.

Good news for entrepreneurs and post-startup companies is that Endeavor, the global startup organisation, has launched an office in Nigeria in February. It selects, mentors and accelerates high-impact entrepreneurs that are poised to scale their businesses.

According to the Global Innovation Index 2017 Report Nigeria ranks 119th place in terms of innovation and is performing below its level of development. However, the sub-Saharan Africa region is performing rather well when it comes to innovation and has had more countries among the group of innovation achievers than any other region. Nigeria is aiming for an economic recovery over the next few years and it will be important for the country to keep improving its innovation performance to maintain the region’s momentum.

Regardless of Nigeria’s ranking on the index, recent innovations coming out of the country are promising and span sectors as diverse as energy, health, education, financial services and agriculture. Take ThriveAgric for example, it uses a crowdfunding platform to drive investments for farmers. It also offers tech-driven advice and provides people with the chance to invest in agriculture to support its mission to ensure food security.

One of the main drivers of cloud adoption, besides benefits such as cost and speed to market, is the government’s vision to become one of the largest economies in the world by 2020. A bold goal, but one that’s being driven by a clear focus on digital adoption and the use of innovative, accessible and modern tools.

Here are three key myths that stand in the way of transformative innovation. Businesses must dispel them to become truly innovative:

Myth #1: Short-term thinking is the enemy of innovation

Business decision makers are often told to avoid narrow-minded thinking, for example around quarterly targets, because short-termism is seen as an inhibitor to strategic, future-proofed IT systems. But while short-term thinking can slow progress, quick goals are the friend of innovation. Indeed, many of the world’s most successful innovators use the short sprint cycles of agile methodology to develop new applications and roll updates out at lightning speed.

AI, blockchain and chatbots are swiftly integrating themselves into mainstream business functions and companies can use short sprint cycles to rapidly trial these and see how to harness emerging technologies in the context of a broader IT strategy.

Myth #2: You know your competitive landscape

While business decision makers work to keep close tabs on the market, today’s competitive landscape is constantly shifting. A big bank may believe its fiercest competitor sits within a crop of new fintech startups, but disruption could also emerge from a rival financial institution that’s quietly adopting cloud tools and using agile methodology to push out new offerings.

With modern cloud services empowering all kinds of businesses to put ideas into action, the market can be disrupted with little-to-no-warning by small digital startups or the biggest players keen on expanding into new verticals. In this constantly evolving competitive landscape, businesses must expect the unexpected and maintain a keen focus on advancing their agility from every angle.

Myth #3: With innovation projects, you can “set it and forget it”

There’s no shortcut to innovation, and companies must invest in their most important resource – human capital. Investing in the team’s knowledge and expertise to build up their own methods of cloud solution development is the most sustainable way of working. Often, people need to try things out in order to truly understand how they can be applied to the business.

Upskilling the full team can be a multi-part process; from hiring new talent who are familiar with dev/ops and agile methodology, to training up the existing team so that they understand the new technology and are attuned to the agile, creative attitude through which innovation can be achieved.

Businesses must remain relevant and competitive if they wish to participate on the global stage, and the adoption of cloud and the technologies that surround it will be instrumental in driving innovation.

(Adebayo Sanni is the MD of Oracle Nigeria).


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