Business innovation today requires data — lots of it.

Just ask a major auto manufacturer that’s developing self-driving cars. Every day the company collects as much raw data as you’d find on 23,000 smartphones. And if all the data the company stored were transferred to CDs, those discs would fill a 39,000-square-foot warehouse.

Despite its compute-intensive nature, the work serves not the IT department, but the business. The company aims to become a major player in the autonomous vehicle market and have a car requiring zero driver intervention by 2021.

While not every organization has such ambitious goals, most chief information officers (CIOs) today need to enable fast business innovation while also lowering the costs of their legacy environment. What they need is a technology platform for business innovation.

IT for the business

This kind of technology platform essentially functions as a digital sandbox that provides API access to common functionalities and integration with mission-critical systems, easy-to-use analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), plus access to both internal and external data sources — all protected by strong security. While this platform is created by IT, it’s designed to help the business, which can use this digital sandbox to develop ideas, test prototypes and create minimum viable products (MVPs) with a fail-fast approach that’s both quick and highly secure.

For example, a major steel manufacturer has created just such a technology platform to test new solutions along its production line and applications for data analytics. The company’s technical advisers use the platform to not only increase manufacturing output and efficiency, but also raise quality levels and boost customer satisfaction.

Similarly, a major automotive parts manufacturer has created a technical platform for testing analytics in the context of the internet of things (IoT). The company hopes these experiments, when integrated with API management, will enable the creation of new business models, including maintenance services, to help the company grow revenue, diversify its offerings and enlarge its market share.

A do-it-yourself solution

A technology platform for business innovation is something every organization needs to assemble for itself. It’s not something a CIO can simply buy from a favorite technology supplier.

That’s because these platforms address unique needs and are formed by unique combinations of products. These can include a hybrid cloud environment, data analytics, API-management capabilities, selected as-a-service offerings, and both integration and workflow technologies.

Each organization will want to pick and choose the platform components that support the most urgent needs of its business. Just as the business priorities of a commercial bank will differ dramatically from those of a clothing manufacturer, so will the kinds of business applications each wants to develop and test.

Building a technology platform for business innovation is a key step in creating a digital foundation. Fortunately, because these platforms leverage the public cloud, they can be built fairly quickly.

Culture shift ahead

But building a technical platform is only half the job. The other half is bringing about the needed cultural change. Today’s fast-changing markets require IT and the business to work together far more closely, and far faster, than ever before.

It’s hard to overstate the magnitude of this cultural shift. What many organizations now need is nothing less than a completely new model for collaboration. This new model barely distinguishes between IT and business; instead, it leads to what we call “scaled agile.” That’s when agile techniques such as MVPs, sprints and scrums become pervasive practices throughout the organization, essentially melting business and IT together. We’re fast approaching the era in which the differences between business and IT roles disappear.

How can your organization benefit from developing a technology platform for business innovation? To begin, some leading organizations have asked themselves probing questions, including:

  • Where are our next opportunities in the digital space?
  • What are our required capabilities?
  • Is our organization ready for the next steps in this digital journey — and are we changing fast enough?

Fully addressing these questions isn’t easy, and it may require some outside help. But the work is worthwhile. Answering these questions can help you design a platform that leverages technology for the new kinds of innovation your business needs.

To learn more, read the white paper, Use IT modernization to accelerate and scale business transformation.