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Story Highlights:

  • For any enterprise to be innovative at their business, their internal enterprise tools should be innovative too.
  • There is often a gap between the outside consumer’s experience and an employee’s experience that can deter the progression of an organization’s Innovation.
  • To fill the experiential gap and succeed in creating stimulating employee experiences, enterprise teams such as IT, HR, Finance, Legal and other internal teams may buy proven tools available in the market, or they can build them out.
  • While you embark on building your own innovative enterprise tools/services, you should have a dedicated engineering team and a formal decision-making process to decide when to build vs. buy.
  • Now that you are walking the walk, your employees will be even more inspired to create better and innovative experiences for their customers.


When we hear terms like ‘Innovation’ or ‘Customer Happiness’, we tend to just think of Innovative products and experiences that are customer facing and delighting. But we forget that the key to achieving customer happiness, as in customers who want to do business with you again and again, is to focus on employee happiness first. It’s simple – engaged employees make happier customers.

In the previous articles of this series “Making Innovation Ordinary”, we have discussed how to set the foundation for Corporate Innovation Programs to flourish. In this episode, we talk about the founding principle of “Building Innovation into your company DNA” by offering the best experiences for your employees, which in turn enable and inspire them to create awesome and innovative customer products and services for their customers. What goes around comes around, right?

The Experiential Gap

Let us talk about an increasingly common scenario we are starting to live in. Alexa is waking you up sharply at 6:30 am, you go to the restroom while watching today’s impeachment or Brexit theatrics on your connected wall TV in parallel to perusing Dow and Nasdaq indexes on your smartphone, brush your teeth using Sonicare that guides you and relays your cavities real-time to your Dentist files, DoorDash your breakfast to get it delivered at your office just in time, get into your self-driving Tesla that chaperons you to your office parking without you doing a damn thing, and then you enter your office.

The dreamy but real sophistications you just enjoyed in your domestic life are fading quickly, as the perils of enterprise experiences are slowly settling in on you. Same old IT, HR, Finance, and Legal systems, the excel pivots your IT friend hacked for you to produce your TPS Reports and the boatload of paper bundles you should keep track of.

Oops, what a contrast between your colorful domestic life and the work experience where you spend most of your day! In this ambiance, it’s easy to see a slippery slope where it would be hard for anyone to be inspired and encouraged to think of the next big thing for their customers. The point here is, your Innovation program or journey should actually start with creating awesome and exciting experiences for your employees. This way, you earn your license to expect your employees to innovate for your customers and to use creative problem solving when facing internal challenges. Let’s delve into some of the opportunities to renovate your internal and employee-facing experiences. Shall we?

Water will always find its way through cracks

Back before the giants of Silicon Valley proliferated the business practices we benefit from today when an Enterprise or any other internal team in a large or siloed organization wanted to enlist technology to solve problems and improve the employee experience, it would have a plethora of red tape, business justifications, and internal process to navigate, that too often it just wouldn’t be worth the time, energy, and ultimately the rejection in many cases. Frustration would mount as business unit leaders, held to productivity and cost containment metrics, understood that employees were not being served in the best manner possible, even while their organizations were touting vision and values and outwardly evangelizing their passion about being customer-centric. The processes and philosophy both seemed counter-intuitive.

Water will always find its way through cracks. The end result then would be that business unit leaders would find dull, manual, tedious, unsexy ways to solve the problem, instead of combining brainpower and firing off the synopses of creative thinking internally and cross-functionally to do it better, faster, cheaper.

We’d start to see limited functionality online forms and list views, small capacity database tools, and way too often spreadsheets with macros (if lucky) and pivot tables instead of intuitive user-friendly tools and powerful analytics. This, in a desperate attempt to serve their department purpose and live out their mission, automate and streamline, improve quality, and organize the functions of their departments… the work they’ve been hired to do. It’s like trying to hammer a nail with a toothbrush.

But, alas! With the emergence of innovative platforms, ‘Enterprise Tech’ is not uncool anymore. This, coupled with a recent generation of enterprise leaders embracing emerging technologies that appeal to a Millennial workforce, rather shying away from them, brings Enterprise a step closer to consumerizing that front. This positive trend of wowing your employees with beautiful experiences is prevalent across the industry, yet there is one more problem to solve. What if the Enterprise SaaS or On-Premise solutions out there in the market are not addressing the specific needs you may have? The alternative is to build the solutions in house, though doing so will compete with your core product and engineering priorities unless the Enterprise teams have their own engineering and innovation muscle.

Building your Enterprise Innovation & Engineering Muscle

In large scale tech companies, some amount of decentralized design and development makes good sense. It puts the development closer to the requestor’s operation with a more intensive awareness of the business partner’s operating environment and can mean a shorter project cycle, greater flexibility, and fewer people required.

Traditional Enterprise-IT organizations of big enterprises predominantly have technical analysts and business analysts to manage and support SaaS-based Enterprise solutions. Very rarely do they build internal, custom Enterprise applications, even when there is a clear market gap. However, your Enterprise can be unique in that if it were to have a team within its infrastructure that has a core focus on building innovation and engineering muscle. This Enterprise-IT team would not only remove the dependencies on your core Engineering teams/resources but also help Engineering focus their energy on strategic initiatives for the core products.

Not dismissing the importance of a symbiotic relationship, the Enterprise-IT team would provide the connective tissue for your organization with your Engineering, User Experience Design lab, Accessibility, and House Security/HSEC. Additionally, the team would ensure your enterprise stays connected and fosters two-way communication that keeps both organizations in sync while elevating credibility and relevance through the broader organization.

Build Vs. Buy

In most cases the best path forward is to find a solution in the technology market space, one that has already been tried and true, and established as a best-in-class leader in the functionality needed. Why reinvent the wheel, especially when an expert in the subject has created one and top organizations in the tech community are happily and successfully using it?

Sometimes though, it becomes necessary to design a homegrown solution for very specific requirements from enterprise business users. Enterprise-IT would partner with your organization to understand the problem and determine if a case should be made to build or buy. At Innovation Minds, we follow the below matrix when deciding to build vs buy any internal tools. Share with us…How do you carry out this task?

The Wheels Keep Turning

Enterprise-IT team scouts out emerging technologies and innovative solutions in the Enterprise arena to be a ‘go-to’ resource for Enterprise technology innovations. Sometimes it’s the energy of trying something new versus staying with the status quo that keeps things exciting. Having the engineering team embedded in the Enterprise organization enables innovation conversations to happen continuously giving this employee-facing technology team a deep understanding of the current and future needs of the business.

In some cases, the new tools have been patent-worthy, providing your exclusive rights to use, produce, and sell the idea or invention! When together with your Legal team it is determined that a new idea or technology you’ve created is not patent material, you can decide to make your source code available for free to the extended technical community, outside of your, as a public collaboration. The technology landscape you enjoy, especially here in Silicon Valley, is highly collaborative. It creates new inroads and economic opportunities that go well beyond your own organization.

Connect with us… Let’s innovate together!

Whether it is developing a new Enterprise application from scratch to add efficiency to the business process or help with migrating any application owned and maintained in any Engineering Stack, Enterprise-IT is providing its partners with the technical support needed.

The team may encompass a skillset pool of Enterprise technology innovation gurus, full-stack engineers, UX and Web developers, principal systems analysts and architects and operations analysts. They are positioned for the rapid delivery of high-quality software and managed services that align development with company goals and customer needs through Design Thinking and Agile development methodology, sprints, and daily scrum meetings. They empower business partners with fewer hand-offs and touchpoints for its technology, and the benefit of a more flexible and speedier path from issue to resolution and from the need to capability.

Please stay tuned for the next article of this series which is a case study on ‘Left Shift Phenomenon that helps Enterprise IT Organizations to reinvent their internal tools and technologies’. In the meantime, continue to WoW and enable your employees with awesome and innovative Enterprise tools, technologies and services, so they can continue to WoW your customers.

Always remember, happier employees make happier customers!

All the best – Bala