How are things for you?

Most of the people we work with are facing big changes. Rather than batten down the hatches, this is the ideal opportunity to innovate.

As business considers the challenges that lie ahead it can, with the right advice and help, discover, trial, and adopt new web based tools that increase workflow, improve customer engagement and drive down costs. These new tools, coming in from the edge to the mainstream, can deliver huge downstream benefits and help make change exciting rather than onerous, and free up people to do more with less.

Now is the time to innovate

Economic pressure, a new Government agenda and a general change in the wind are forcing many organisations to rethink how they do things. As the digital infrastructure around us becomes ever more sophisticated, people are finding new ways to design and deliver services in more agile, efficient and user friendly ways. This is an era of innovation, driven by those that have the vision and guile to make things happen. Many of them responding a social, rather than business need.

Text image from UXB London, a design consultancy working in London UK

The signal we are getting from the people we work with is very clear - with so much technology around, how do we know we are making the right choices? It's a valid point. Keeping up with the pace of digital business is beyond many. But technology isn't really the issue. There's a lot of it around and it's getting smarter everyday. It's what people do with that really matters. And that's where it gets interesting.

In our research work we talk with people about their experiences of using technologies business and consumer technologies. The insights we gain into their needs, frustrations, requirements and capabilities are accumulating in our research knowledge bank. Certain themes recur: (ease of) access, (fair) value, (good) usability, relevance and (quality) service. Compare this desire with the experience most of us have of using existing technology. It's generally the polar opposite.

Fat technology - or light and fast

Many organisations are tied in knots by technology that is no longer fit for purpose. Bloated, over-specified enterprise systems, conceived in a different era, and with little involvement of the poor folk who have to use them every day. It's not easy for a business to uncouple from such systems, but if a strategic decision to do so is not taken, frustrated staff simply work around it in any case.

They generally seek out and recommend to others, web based tools and applications that enable them to work in newer, smarter ways. These tools tend to be easier to use than the systems specified by their employer. By working around complicated and cumbersome IT systems they become freer, more connected and more productive.

Employers should not try to crack down on this and force their people back behind the firewall. Instead, they should empower their people to work in the way that best suits them. Encourage this user led innovation and go with it. Enterprises that embrace this shift away from IT specification enjoy many benefits. Staff are happier, productivity increases and costs are reduced.

People are choosing their own preferred tools

The emergence of web based tools that can be adopted by even large enterprises is part of a wider shift from ownership of technology to subscription. It also marks a shift towards people self selecting the technology they find most useful. What this tells us is that people are taking technology into their own hands and completely redesigning the way they work.

This is another step change in the evolution of the web that's being driven by people, not technology. Many enterprises however, adhering to the top down rather than bottom up change approach are too inflexible to grasp the opportunity. This is unsurprising, and will continue until a move away from IT is common place.

Much of the real innovation in people's hands now happens on the edge, and is often a response to a social rather than business need. In trying to meet or improve a social need, these new tools can reveal new and exciting benefits and even entirely new business models. Tools such as Patient Opinion and MyPolice are bringing service providers and the public closer together and delivering improvements and efficiencies that weren't possible by any other means. School of Everything is revolutionising learning and has the power to make massive savings for Local Authorities. And the king of edge innovations - Twitter - which started out as side project - proves that small tools that aim to do one thing brilliantly can be much more effective than a big one that does many things badly.