Posts Tagged ‘Profit’

ROI for Innovation – The low hanging fruit!

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

ROI for Innovation – The low hanging fruit!
© Roger La Salle 2010
Business Units need to provide a return

In my previous article I challenged innovation practitioners to examine the return on their innovation investment. If your innovation initiative is not providing returns greater than its cost, then the very existence of the program needs to be questioned.

Having said that, one may well ask what is an appropriate time scale to obtain this return? Months, years or maybe even a decade as we wait in vain hope for the breakthrough initiative that seldom ever comes!

So let’s examine the possibilities and find the low hanging fruit.

If you can have an early win with innovation then you can be sure more budget will be forthcoming and still greater achievements can be obtained.

Where to start?

Essentially there are just four ways in which innovation may be tackled:
• Product innovation
• Service Innovation
• The broad landscape of systematic opportunity capture
• Process Innovation

The first three above mentioned approaches herald the introduction of innovated products, services and perhaps the implementation of a new captured opportunity. Without doubt it is with these that we can build the top revenue line of a business. Put simply, this is really the only way to build a business. Businesses grow on increased revenues and by no other means.

Having said that, the implementation of any of these involves some degree of risk, technical in the development phase, but much more significantly, risk in the market place. Will the market be as large as you forecast? Interestingly if you embrace proper innovation practices market risk can also be largely mitigated, but of course never completely removed.

With the above in mind, perhaps the early innovation initiative should be focused on the one with the least risk, Process Innovation.

What is Process Innovation?

Process Innovation is about finding better ways to do whatever we are doing. Process innovation, unless it means tinkering with the sales process or sales model really carries little if any risk and in my experience I have found that there is almost always room for process improvements.

Further, any improvement in a process translates dollar for dollar to the bottom line, thus measuring the gain compared with the cost or perhaps the ROI is relatively easy.

Governments both state and federal push process improvement, Lean, Continuous Improvement, 5S and Six Sigma as their way of encouraging innovation in businesses. They do this I believe because these are somewhat tried and tested methods but also because improvements can almost always be made and cost benefits determined with little downside risk. Furthermore the benefits of process improvement are easier to understand and articulate.

However, even so, these extremely simple methods are still somewhat shrouded in a mystique that makes them unnecessarily complex, much more so than they need to be.

For many large multinationals with subsidiaries in Australia, unfortunately there is neither the opportunity nor appetite for innovation except in processes. Consequently this is where the bulk of attention is paid.

In the case of utilities such as water, gas and electricity where this is little scope to actually “innovate” the product there is still scope for service innovation and opportunity capture. In such organisations that are largely process driven and with many people doing the same thing, the gains possible from process innovation are almost unlimited.

Keep it Simple

I like to keep things really simple and in process innovation there are really only two things that need to be addressed:

• Costs – how much does each and any activity cost in cold hard cash, from telephone bills to rents, interest, labours and raw materials, including the cost of work in progress?

• Cycle Time – how long does each activity take? This includes the process of getting an incoming order into the system right though to collecting the money from the customer.

If the above two are addressed in a systematic manner, consistent with the maintenance of quality, the process innovation business is pretty straight forward. It simply commences with an activity that maps and measures where you are now with each process and then works to make improvements in the two above mentioned places.

This is not rocket science and is very low risk.

So what’s the time scale?

With process innovation leading your innovation initiative it should be possible to make real cost benefit gains within six months at the most and, of course as stated, any savings go straight to the bottom line.

But I emphasise again, removing costs or improving processes does not build the revenue line, however the extra funds provided by such improvements can now be applied to where the real business building action can take place, product and service innovation and of course “opportunity capture”.

That’s where the real game is.

**** END ****

Roger La Salle, is the creator of the “Matrix Thinking”™ technique and is widely sought after as an international speaker on Innovation, Opportunity and business development. He is the author of three books, Director and former CEO of the Innovation Centre of Victoria (INNOVIC) as well as a number of companies both in Australian and overseas. He has been responsible for a number of successful technology start-ups and in 2004 was a regular panellist on the ABC New Inventors TV program. In 2005 he was appointed to the “Chair of Innovation” at “The Queens University” in Belfast. Matrix Thinking is now used in more than 26 countries. www.matrixthinking.com

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Your innovation initiative – What’s the ROI?

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

                                                                                                  © Roger La Salle 2010

 

Business is about profits

 I define business as “Creating Wealth through Profitable Transactions”.

 Like it or not, that’s what business is about!

 Indeed it’s the first duty of a CEO and board to work to the best interest of shareholders in providing a return on their investments. This is one of their fundamental responsibilities and by and large guides their decision making.

 Do you measure it?

 In many businesses precise metrics are employed to ensure workers are providing an adequate return on their costs, wages and all the attendant overheads. In fact the total cost of many workers these days is 50% or more of their direct salary.

In production we measure process efficiency, defined as output per unit time divided by costs. We then work to maximise the process efficiency, but we measure it.

In accounting, law, consulting and even contracted medical professionals, earned income compared with cost is measured. If you are not paying your way and in fact returning a profit, then unfortunately your time will be short lived. This is how it is in business and this is the way it will remain.

 There are some escapees

Strangely, senior managers, except perhaps the CEO, escape this direct measurement of performance (more will be said on this in future articles). In fact some complete departments deemed as essential also escape. accounts, payroll, and ITC may fall into this category as essential overheads whose costs must be amortised across other profit centres.

In the case of innovation initiatives and indeed complete innovation departments, the rationale behind the establishment of these is that “it’s the done thing”. If we are not being innovative we will not be able to retain our position and will soon be overtaken by smarter competitors. This is a great story and so true, but unfortunately the reality is that if the innovation initiative is not delivering quantifiable value then clearly it should simply not exist.

How does your innovation initiative measure up?

In the past many companies have embraced then later discarded their innovation initiatives once it became obvious that the costs were not being in any way justified by the outcomes.

The common defence for such departments when challenged is that “innovation takes time, but we will get the big one and all will be well.” Sure thing, how many times have we heard that one from would be innovators?

There is an old axiom in business and engineering: “If you can’t measure it, don’t do it”. This is so true.

Unlike perhaps the IT, accounts or payroll departments that are simply indispensable, an innovation department that is not delivering value does not qualify as one of these “escapee” and thus should not exist. Such departments are simply an unjustified business overhead.

The bottom line is do you have Innovation Metrics in place?

What is your planned innovation payback period and are the costs exceeding any expected returns.

Where to Start?

 The starting point, too often overlooked is embodied in the following four questions.

 What are you trying to achieve?

  • Where are you now?
  • How will you measure progress?
  • What outcome defines success?

If you intend to either embrace or continue with an innovation initiative then answer each of these questions, ideally with a single sentence. If you cannot do that, you are not yet on the first rung of the innovation ladder.

Finally, my next article will look at the time scale for implementation, and you may be quite surprised at just how short that can be in providing a positive ROI.

 **** END ****

Roger La Salle, is the creator of the “Matrix Thinking”™ technique and is widely sought after as an international speaker on Innovation, Opportunity and business development. He is the author of three books, Director and former CEO of the Innovation Centre of Victoria (INNOVIC) as well as a number of companies both in Australian and overseas. He has been responsible for a number of successful technology start-ups and in 2004 was a regular panellist on the ABC New Inventors TV program. In 2005 he was appointed to the “Chair of Innovation” at “The Queens University” in Belfast. Matrix Thinking is now used in more than 26 countries.  www.matrixthinking.com

 

 

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Open Innovation! – Is this simply “Opportunity Capture”

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

Open Innovation! -  Is this simply “Opportunity Capture”

in another guise?

                                                                                                   © Roger La Salle 2010

 Background

Some months ago I sent out an article that mentioned “Open Innovation”, finally this is starting to get some traction, and it’s about time. However let’s not let the boffins turn this into “rocket science” as so many have done or attempted to do with innovation.

Keep it simple, that’s the message.

I recall speaking at a number of conferences and repeating that in reality innovation is really pretty simple, only to later be asked to stop saying that. If it’s simple, we can’t charge enough I was told.

Nice one I thought, but why make something that is fundamentally easy seem difficult?

 On Open Innovation

Open innovation is about looking beyond your own horizons and connecting with parties where the sum of the two is far greater than the individuals. However, in some cases people are wary of this model, and maybe for good reasons that may include:

  • Loss of control
  • IP and ownership disputes
  • Risk, both financial and career

These risks can be managed if there is first awareness and a collaboration model plainly laid out in advance. Too many collaborations can end up in disaster if the rules of engagement are not first well though through. Just ask many who have started a business as a partnership only to see it later fail in bitter dispute.

I also refer to a previous article I wrote on “Connecting the Dots”. May I suggest this is simply open innovation in another guise, so too is “Opportunity Capture” a subject I have been speaking on for years.

I include a brief extract from the article on “Connecting the Dots”. I wonder who may have connected these dots, as each connection is a business opportunity just waiting to be grabbed:

Physiotherapy and the reduction of carbon emissions?

  • The tooth brush and ceramic crystals?
  • Extruded plastic “core flute” sheeting and aluminium extrusions?

Going Forward

Even if the dots are marvellously connected many initiatives still fail in the gestation and commercialisation phases.There three ways of going about this most important phase:

  • One party takes the lead role
  • Joint venture
  • The “Outrigger” model.

Especially for large organisations it’s this latter model that I see as the one that works the best. Indeed IBM was a great exponent of this model when it decided to move from just “Big Blue” to developing and selling PC’s.

Ownership of a project, direct responsibility, fast nimble action and competent management is the ideal model. Further, this is a model where so called “disruptive” innovations can be tested without serious risk to the host body.

The Input

As with data processing, rubbish in equals rubbish out.

The key to success is first a good idea, all successful businesses start with a good idea.

This is where “Opportunity Capture” comes right to the fore. Call it open innovation if you like, but I have still yet to see a formal open innovation model that actually provides a structured search mechanism for an opportunity.

May I suggest “Opportunity Capture” is just that!

In conclusion

An extract from a past article on this very subject a few months ago:

Opportunity – the Next Wave

In addition to innovation, a new wave is starting to build, that of Opportunity capture and the systematic search for opportunities.

In this domain opportunity is defined as: “An observed fortunate set of Circumstances” ©RLS 2000

You can teach your people to become opportunists, teach the important things to observe and move your people from being mere operators to become opportunists.

There is little doubt the wave of “opportunity” is gathering momentum.

                                                   **** END ****

 

 

 

Roger La Salle, is the creator of the “Matrix Thinking”™ technique and is widely sought after as an international speaker on Innovation, Opportunity and business development. He is the author of three books, Director and former CEO of the Innovation Centre of Victoria (INNOVIC) as well as a number of companies both in Australian and overseas. He has been responsible for a number of successful technology start-ups and in 2004 was a regular panellist on the ABC New Inventors TV program. In 2005 he was appointed to the “Chair of Innovation” at “The Queens University” in Belfast. Matrix Thinking is now used in more than 26 countries.  www.matrixthinking.com

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Business Building – There’s only one way!

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Business Building – There’s only one way!

                                                                                                  © Roger La Salle 2010

 Traditionally

Business is best defined as: “Creating wealth through profitable transactions”

I came to this definition many year ago after having won a job as General Manager of a medium sized company and later boasting to a friend that revenue has increased three fold under my guidance. “Great he said, but what about profit”?

 This was a great question.

Business is about profits, and indeed every department within a business should be contributing to that, even if they are so called “off-line activities” such as perhaps the training manager or the IT Department.

 The Simple Arithmetic

In simplistic terms the profit and loss sheet tells the story of a business and is comprised of just three components:

Revenue less Costs = Profits

 Reduce costs and reap the benefit?

 There are just two ways to increase profit.

The first is to reduce costs, thus profits will naturally rise. But beware of the old adage:

You can’t cost cut your way to prosperity”. This is so true.

Many initiatives such as “Lean”, “Continuous Improvement”, “Six Sigma” and a host of other efficiency measures target the cost elements of a business. Unfortunately, although these may make you more competitive they will not make you competitive against low cost labour countries, nor in general will they increase the landscape of opportunity. Put simply, they just allow for more profitable operations from the same revenue base.

 Business Building

The only way to increase your business in real terms is to focus on building the top line, the revenue, and there are only three ways that can be achieved.

 1        More Sales to the same market

This is easily achieved as a short term measure by the addition of sales staff, increased incentives and perhaps more advertising and promotions. But this is not a sustainable endeavour and is too easily matched by competitors. Indeed increased expenditure on sales endeavours may be seen as the reciprocal of price cutting aimed at increasing market share. In price cutting, the customer is the only winner. Furthermore this initiative is again easily matched by competitors.

 2        New Markets for the same products

Opening up new markets, perhaps exporting or entering places where products of your type have never before been sold is another way to increase revenues, but this is both expensive and can be extremely risky. Furthermore, once you have done all the work in creating a new market – guess what – you have now laid the perfect foundations for your competitors to follow. This alone is not a good sustainable strategy on which to build your business.

 So what’s the third?

The third and only way to continue to expand your business is to constantly provide new and improved products and services and new ways of doing business – this is innovation. The search for new ways must be sustained and endless or you can be sure business stagnation and eventual failure will be the result.

 Indeed, as stated is some of my earlier work, statistics from USA based research cite the life expectancy of a publicly listed company in the USA today as being less than ten years, compared with some 65 years in the 1920’s.

 Companies that fail to innovate, ultimately fail to exist.

 Innovation and Opportunity Capture is the Answer!

Most business people would acknowledge that innovation is the answer, but unfortunately many confuse innovation with the abstraction of “creativity” and have not given sufficient time to understanding the difference.

 In short, innovation when properly applied is a tried, proven and rigorous tool for business building.

Even less understood than innovation is the formal process of “Opportunity Capture”.

Indeed you can easily show your people how to embrace the exciting and systematic discipline of opportunity capture, and it’s all so easy.

 Where to from here

There can be little doubt that the third way of new and improved products and services and ways of doing business is the only way to reliably grow a business.

So after the cost removal processes have been initiated, it may be time to start addressing the top line.

 That’s the way to build a business.

                                                         **** END ****

Roger La Salle, is the creator of the “Matrix Thinking”™ technique and is widely sought after as an international speaker on Innovation, Opportunity and business development. He is the author of three books, Director and former CEO of the Innovation Centre of Victoria (INNOVIC) as well as a number of companies both in Australian and overseas. He has been responsible for a number of successful technology start-ups and in 2004 was a regular panellist on the ABC New Inventors TV program. In 2005 he was appointed to the “Chair of Innovation” at “The Queens University” in Belfast. Matrix Thinking is now used in more than 26 countries.  www.matrixthinking.com

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