Design Office, an operational approach to innovation and transformation

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As an incubator of innovation at the heart of projects or maintenance activities, Design Office brings innovation to the fore with all the discipline needed to enhance the flow of ideas between participants.

With the acceleration of business, and especially the continual emergence of new disruptive players, companies must continuously innovate. For this, most have ad-hoc structures in which experts actively monitor technologies, strategies, and emerging business models. However, because it sometime lacks discipline and proximity to the operational realities of the company, this approach can lead to isolated initiatives, a lack of coherence and continuity, and the neglect of certain topics.

An analysis of the innovation effort based on McKinsey’s three-horizons model often shows a symptomatic imbalance of the limits of this approach. In fact, according to this model, innovation should ideally be 70% short term (improvements made to existing solutions), 20% medium term (mature solutions that are new to the company) and 10% long term (experimenting with promising but just-emerging solutions). Those companies that rely excessively on the third option often struggle to keep up with innovation and fail to reap quick profits.

Innovation and Transformation

Creating the right conditions for bottom-up innovation

In view of this fact, the question remains how to render innovation more efficient, more operational, and, in particular, how to take advantage of the potential of the partner, supplier, and client ecosystem—particularly in terms of outsourcing development and maintenance activities. One challenge, in particular, is to create the right conditions for bottom-up innovation that reflects the needs and ideas on the ground, that is able to change legacies, and that can, thereby, foster short-term innovation.

To these ends, the project seems to be the most appropriate link since it brings together those who know the application best, and who grasp its constraints and uses and are therefore that much more capable of understanding the very changes they will be expected to implement. The goal thus would be to set up a framework within each project that would provide the structure needed to filter the risk that is inherent in any innovation process while also promoting new ideas. This is what it means to have an innovative approach to applied innovation—Design Office.

Discipline, rituals, systematization

. From a purely operational perspective, it is about discipline, routine, and systematization. To promote not only the ideas themselves, but also the way in which these ideas are expressed, shared, evaluated, and developed, Design Office uses several tools, methods, and best practices that combine rigor and creativity.

Although anyone can have ideas, good ones rarely materialize on demand. Ideation requires routine, dedicated, and reserved moments. Whether it be theme days or Design Thinking workshops, the idea is to deploy an inspiring but highly operational framework in which the participant is invited to respond to specific problems, aiming for quick results. Design Office also implements collaborative tools, survey kits, and rules. As with certain start-ups, Design Office will, for example, request that each idea be described on one page, using six key points: principle, added value for the project, added value for the client, technology, constraints and difficulties, and benefits.

Finally, a systematic implementation approach will make it possible to promote the best ideas quickly: formalization, encryption, development of an MVP (minimum viable product), a POC, and a pilot—all the way up to the project. As a form of encouragement and recognition, the person behind the idea will remain associated with its realization. Design Office must be implemented by a manager—often an architect—who will not only have to put in place the structure, methods and tools, but also mobilize the team and fuel its dynamism. For this, she or he will need a sponsor who will lend the legitimacy necessary to sustain the initiative successfully.

Articulate internally and externally

Because the project framework is too limited for long-term innovation, Design Office is also connected to an extensive skills and surveillance network so that it can detect trends, capitalize on ideas, and benefit from expertise. A horizontal structure, the Central Design Office, coordinates, aligns, and animates the entirety, ensuring a mutually enriching exchange between the internal and the external.

Pragmatic and operational, the Design Office approach makes it possible to balance the innovation effort, bring it back to the levels recommended by the McKinsey model and, above all, reap concrete and rapid benefits. From the dozen incubators set up by Capgemini in 2017 some 300 ideas have emerged. Of these, approximately 120 had value, 60 resulted in an MVP, and 30 led directly to a project. By collaborating in this way with his or her partners, the CIO becomes the catalyst for an applied and efficient innovation that strengthens his or her position as the accelerator of transformation in business.

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