Digitization  became a buzzword: a simple search on the internet is enough to notice that the number of results is impressive: all the magazines dedicated to the business world mention it and we have all to admit that the digital era is revolutionising the way we conduct business. Hence, all organisations want to undertake their digital transformation, which they perceive as the solution to gain in performance and to be innovative. They are therefore venturing into app creation, software integration, data management, transformation of production tools and online sales… Digitization seems to be the way to succeed and all efforts must contribute to it: 

But how does digitization relate to the many forms that innovation can take within a company?

Digitization refers to “Digital Business Transformation is Organizational Change through the use of Digital Technologies and Business Models to Improve Performance.” [1]. It is about implementing new ways of working, linked to the digital domain, that bring added value and improve the way the company manages its business.

Innovation is defined by the ISO 56000 collection as a “changed or new entity creating or redistributing value; one of the notes below the definition specifies that the value can be financial and non-financial” [2]. In other words, innovation is all about satisfying needs (expressed or not) from the customers and that’s how value can be created.

If we compare these two definitions, we immediately notice that they have two essential aspects in common. First, both, innovation and digitization, imply a change in the way the company does business: the whole value chain is potentially impacted. Secondly, both are undertaken with a specific objective. They aim to generate value and thus improve the company’s performance.

The question is how a company can innovate through a digital transformation with an optimised approach. I believe very much in the importance of the notion of “Innovation Management System”, that is to say, to think that innovation does not come from serendipity but can be born and develop if we put in place the necessary tools.

As the chairperson of the ISO committee TC 279 in charge of elaborating this standard, I propose to present in this article the principles used to build the ISO 56000 collection. These 8 principles represent a basis for the implementation of an innovation management system. 

It appears that the implementation of an Innovation Management System should :

– Aim for value realization; it is the definition of innovation. As an outcome of a process, innovation has to deliver value to the company’s customers.

– Be supported by future-focused leaders; in other words, the managers have to foresee the future context of the organization (for example the impact of AI, or the international stakes) to articulate a vision.

– Share a strategic direction. We mean to be able to articulate a vision for the company and spread it among the employees. It helps to engage the employee in the innovation journey and to keep the entrepreneurial momentum.

– Be based on a company culture that favours the coexistence of creativity and operational excellence. This happens through upskilling and the visibility that is offered to innovation.

– Allow exploiting insights, trends revealing unmet needs. External weak signals help to design the future “unfair advantage” of innovation.

– Enable the management of uncertainty. We can underline here that managing does not mean mastering and controlling, but more globally accepting and making the best of things;

– Be adaptable. This means considering that the system must not be fixed, it must remain agile in order to take into account situations (e.g. types of projects) that may not have been envisaged when the innovation processes and digital transformation were created;

– Be considered via a system approach.  It should be noted that we are asking to consider innovation in all the layers of the organisation.

ISO 56002 recommends considering a medium/long-term vision, remaining open, accepting to evolve in a context of uncertainty, and ensuring the implementation of adaptable processes with a portfolio of innovation/transformation projects. All digitization efforts must be aligned in a strategic approach. In other words, companies need to put in place a strategy focused on innovation, the implementation of which will likely include the integration of digital.

[1] Wade, M. (2015). Digital Transformation: A Conceptual Framework. Global Center for Digital Business Transformation.  http://www.imd.org/uupload/IMD.WebSite/DBT/Digital%20Business%20Transformation%20Framework.pdf

[2] ISO 56000:2020 Innovation management — Fundamentals and vocabulary