How to Foster Innovation within a company— a working framework

Fabio Quinzi
Jan 6 · 6 min read
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What is innovation?

Innovation is a rather generic word that can describe many things, and it’s most definitely not only R&D.
We can define innovation as anything that can enhance our projects, processes or understanding of problems, and it can be achieved by an individual, a team or the whole company.

Problem statement — Assessing Innovation in YNAP

After many years working in the Yoox Net-a-Porter group I felt that innovation wasn’t as supported as before in in many areas, fading year by year.
This is inevitable when a company experiences fast growth, a merger, acquisitions and difficult migration processes, and we had it all.
It suddenly started feeling like all we did was just follow an overgrown backlog and try to meet more difficult deadlines with no time to properly reassess and refactor solutions.
I thought that engineers soon enough would’ve felt like not having control of solutions, quality or being proud and excited of their work.
As many will know, personalising giant 3rd party products like HCL Commerce or Coremedia CMS works, but doesn’t really require much creativity or use of lifechanging cutting edge technologies.

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Defining an Innovation Framework

I had to start by defining what innovation could look like for us, so I combined a few great rules that I found reading other studies about this subject:

  • Innovating is not a purely technical or economic mechanism, but it must have a social dimension where all individuals have the possibility to express their creativity, needs, and desires
  • It is not always easy to find organisations with appropriate organisational structures that foster innovation, so we should try to promote it
  • The implementation of a culture of innovation in an organisation implies a reassessment of products, services and processes, and is the best way to give the organisation greater longevity and adaptability to the constant fluctuations of the market
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  • Sharing Forum
    The sharing forum is a 2h monthly event that I organise asking everyone in our area to present ideas, projects, processes reviews and business cases that come from that 10% innovation time.
    This not only rewards engineers with a voice and a stage, but also collects interest, shares solutions and technology to avoid reinventing the wheel in many teams, and allow other teams to use the same generic purpose solution on areas like cost cutting/monitoring, performance, infrastructure and so on…
  • Governance Committee
    Once many new potential projects are starting up, we need to review these projects and understand both the feasibility and advantage of them. A Governance Committee of five to ten people is introduced, helped by one Subject Matter Expert per team. This acts as a golden gate, guaranteeing governance across our area, technical guidance and a broad architectural review of every new cross-team project
  • New Initiatives Demand Forum
    Once a project is technically approved by the governance committee, a business case will be created, the Commerce and Content Principal POs will review it, assign a value in terms of savings or earnings and prioritise the initiative in our global company roadmap

Framework Lifecycle and process definition

The four building blocks described before works following this lifecycle:

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Results

It all started 6 months ago, when I started the framework by introducing the Commerce & Content Sharing Forum, I’ve since got the 10% innovation time approved within every team of the area and along with very committed colleagues we moved forward through defining the Governance Commitee and finally the New Initiative Forum.

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