Transparency is also vital to the potentials for innovation a company has. Advances in innovation are usually less attributable to major leaps forward than to a continuous, adaptive process. Many small innovative steps are what yield decisive progress in innovation. The employees of a company offer an essential source of innovation, and their potential is far from being fully utilized. They are the closest to customers and the production processes. They know and constantly find out what could be done better, differently or in a new way. Their analysis of purchase behavior is crucial to competition.
IT greatly helps the company to uncover this treasure trove of knowledge and to evaluate and make use of it. Appropriate solutions enable innovation challenges to be discussed and processed simultaneously and continuously by large numbers of people. They also let concrete proposals and ideas be systematically recorded and dealt with and ensure the existence of clever incentive systems for innovation. IT does more than just provide tools. It also makes available the necessary transparency so that innovation can be demanded and provided “from the bottom up.” In many cases, innovation is attributable to the “wisdom of the many.” Appropriate IT applications are the only alternative for rendering this wisdom recordable and usable. They must put the internal employee suggestion system, for instance, in a systematic and easily evaluated format.
Transparency in Sales
Sales constitute an essential corporate function, the success of which depends on transparency and flexibility. The right mindset is essential in this context, too. Previous experience shows that sales and the personnel in sales tend to respond negatively to greater transparency requirements. That has nothing to do with IT applications per se. It is more an expression of a mindset of fear. People are afraid of being monitored, people are afraid of a management that prefers seeing a half-empty glass rather than a half-full one when it comes to opportunities.
This very attitude is obsolete, however, for management and for sales. The fact is that greater transparency in sales is not a threat but rather a big opportunity for everyone involved. The more information is available about sales and about opportunities, the more effectively expertise can be transferred among the individual functional units in the company. Greater transparency in sales allows better support from Marketing, for example. That is important. People who do not find out about something affecting them always have to react after the fact instead of acting proactively as it happens.
More “Bottom-Up” Possibilities
For IT solutions for sales, this means that they have to render the system more greater transparent and flexible by widening the range of action of sales, not narrowing it. Sales employees should no longer be forced simply to fill out report forms and to feel as if their every move is being monitored by IT applications. They need solutions whose transparency and flexibility benefit them and their activities. Only then will sales be strengthened in a lasting way as a company function. Transparency does not mean top-down control. It means information flows in all directions needed for success. And flexibility means no longer being forced from the top down to change behavior but instead obtaining more possibilities from and for those at the “bottom.”
Steve Jobs showed what all is possible if you make people and their requirements the focal point of your efforts. This approach is, in reality, a crucial driving force in the IT Revolution. Developing IT products not from the standpoint of their systemic usefulness but rather from the standpoint of the individual user is a necessary paradigm if we want businesses to gain greater transparency and flexibility from IT solutions. In many areas, this paradigm cannot be made a reality overnight, but to the extent that it is in place it triggers processes that move businesses in the right direction.