CEO Insider

Can Companies Strike a Better Balance Between Business Operations and Innovation?

Rhett Power

Yes — the need for digital transformation and overall business innovation is undeniable. Regardless, pursuing these opportunities requires a careful balancing act. Rhett Power discusses a few ways business leaders can balance business innovation with operations when focusing on digital transformation.

Nearly the whole world moved to remote work back in 2020, and organizations responded the best they could: by cobbling together speedy solutions to keep the business afloat. Even though many were in the midst of digital transformation already, those efforts soon hit breakneck speed, leaving little room for planning or preparation. 

Few executives entered into this situation believing that these haphazard accommodations would be around for more than a month or two. Little did they know that the situation would become the status quo — a status quo that has left many companies still operating in a reactive rather than a proactive mode. This calls for a move from those emergency plans to long-term strategies. A large part of this involves striking a better balance between operations and innovation. After all, it’s time to get back to business. 

With this, your development team can no longer be an island and must move closer to operations. This allows for companywide involvement with development, testing, and validation. Not that you want to be in the position of too many cooks — it just spoils the broth. But it only makes sense to keep everyone in the know so no resources are ever wasted and the development cycle becomes much more efficient. That’s especially true when an entire organization is working in a remote environment.

Much of this burden will fall to the CIO and IT department. In fact, one survey revealed that 76% of CIOs say “it’s challenging to find the right balance between business innovation and operational excellence.” It’s their responsibility to provide a means for maintaining day-to-day operations while also using technology to enable things to get done. Accelerating digital transformation efforts can certainly help, but that’s a tall order when trying to balance the operational environment with capability advancement. 

The question is this: What is the answer to stabilizing what can sometimes feel like diametrically opposed goals? The following are often the best places to start:

  1. Value data privacy within your organization.
    Although some might argue that building greater security controls into new technologies or workflows can squelch innovation, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, this addition might go a long way. Research suggests a “healthy dose” of constraints can enhance creativity and innovative thinking. The key to overcoming these constraints is to embrace them rather than push back against what might be viewed as an obstacle.
    Besides, a Risk Based Security report found that the number of compromised records in 2020 came in at more than 37 billion — a 141% increase from 2019. With data becoming an ever more important asset to business outcomes, companies should implement and maintain safeguards to protect this information. Otherwise, they risk a loss in trust, which can quickly lead to customer attrition, revenue losses, and costly fines — not to mention the civil suits that follow data breaches.
    If your business has yet to do so, establish internal auditing practices around data privacy and security compliance processes. A dedicated team and the proper controls can help identify possible security issues associated with collecting, storing, and sharing personal data and prevent a major data breach before it happens.
  2. Use AI and blockchain to help with security measures.
    The increase in data breaches over the last few years should be reason enough to institute greater security measures, but the job is often too big for an organization to tackle alone. Even with third-party support, cybersecurity can be a challenge — that is, until blockchain became a viable alternative. Such distributed ledger technologies can protect information by decentralizing users’ identities within “blocks” of data spread out across several networks.
    This is especially clear in the healthcare space, for instance. “When used in conjunction with AI, blockchain technology has the power to help practitioners and organizations work together without security risks,” writes Tom Hickman, U.S. director of business development and sales at Chainyard, a digital transformation service provider. “Because the blockchain represents a transparent, single source of information that cannot be changed, it can store data from multiple sources and create a harmonized picture of truth that different users can access without bias. In addition, limits can be put in place as to who has access to the data.”
    All that’s really left is building those privacy-related AI functionalities into blockchain solutions. Such security protocols not only allow companies to share data more securely, but also address many of the concerns associated with protecting information accessible on these shared ledgers. Should AI then be used to enrich data sets in tandem with analytical modeling, new avenues open up for enhanced learning — learning that can better support innovation, improve operational efficiencies, and drive revenue growth.
  3. Migrate to the cloud.
    As far as business growth goes, the cloud offers limitless opportunities. The flexibility, for one, allows development teams to optimize and expedite workflows, putting your operations in a better position to respond to market demands. It also provides your entire team access to applications that might not otherwise be available on legacy systems — all without overhauling your existing tech stack, which can come at a significant expense.
    Beyond that, cloud providers upgrade their services regularly. Should industry standards or regulations change, you can expect the technology to follow suit. This can help cut the operational costs, downtime, and potential data loss often associated with doing the same internally. Apart from the pandemic, it could be one of the reasons why 90% of enterprises anticipate their cloud usage to be higher than expected.

Looking ahead, CIOs have reason to be optimistic. Just remember that this is a marathon — not a sprint. Work up a contingency plan in case the whole world gets a case of shin splints. If you can step back from the current environment, reevaluate those interim solutions, and plan your long-term route for 2022, you’ll be better equipped to handle the new world of work for years to come.


Written by Rhett Power.
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Rhett Power
Rhett Power is responsible for helping corporate leadership take the actions needed to drive impact and courage in their teams that will improve organizational performance. He is the author of The Entrepreneur’s Book of Actions: Essential Daily Exercises and Habits for Becoming Wealthier, Smarter, and More Successful (McGraw-Hill Education) and co-founder of Wild Creations, an award-winning start-up toy company. After a successful exit from the toy company, Rhett was named the best Small Business Coach in the United States. In 2019 he joined the prestigious Marshall Goldsmith's 100 Coaches and was named the #1 Thought Leader on Entrepreneurship by Thinkers360. He is a Fellow at The Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital, a Harvard Medical School affiliate. He travels the globe speaking about entrepreneurship and management alongside the likes of former Gates Foundation CEO Sue Desmond-Hellmann and AOL Founder Steve Case. Rhett Power is an acclaimed author, leader, entrepreneur and an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow him on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.