Irish business has long been highly competitive, and remote working policies in the wake of the pandemic as well as the great initiatives such as the AEC enterprise hub project coordinated by the Western Development Commission (WDC) have created widespread digital hubs throughout Ireland.
Yet, keeping competitive has rarely been more challenging than now. Uncertain times have focused investment on resilience and short-term recovery priorities, however, in doing so, they have exposed and reshaped where the value lies and can be created.
Permeating it all is technology. Not far off, nebulous technology, but focused, value-creating and deliberate implementations.
What was once considered ‘blue sky’ digital goals of remote workforces, or online experiences ‘as good as the real world’, suddenly became survival essentials.
These demands tested how quickly businesses can innovate and deliver and how well they can respond to the market with focus and purpose.
Creating opportunities for the long term
It’s been tough for many, both big and small. Delivering against the ‘new normal’ pushed organisations right out of their comfort zone, just to be able to stay afloat.
One thing has been consistent, and that is that competitive success – be it in Ireland’s technology, financial, or any other sector – stems from rapid innovation.
The link between innovation and competitiveness is strong. Innovation affords opportunity – grasping chances and providing an engine for change.
On the other side, competitiveness is about immediacy and speed – meeting and beating the competition, responding to the market.
Ireland is in a strong position to do so. We are one of the last remaining English-speaking countries in the EU, have a large and highly educated talent pool, hold a unique relationship with the UK, and have appealing business tax rates.
It’s a potent mix, attracting foreign direct investment, talent, enabling a robust export economy and a burgeoning technology ecosystem. We have a lot to work with.
People provide the power
Keeping Irish business competitive, spurring growth and productivity, means playing to our digital strengths by prioritising innovation and new ways of working. Tapping into talent, wherever it may be.
But innovating can be scary and is easier said than done. Sometimes even relatively straight forward digital upgrades can be too much to add to any team’s plate, let alone with the expectation of also “innovating”.
The challenge lies in having the capabilities – the people power – available. If innovation is the engine for competitiveness, then people are its fuel.
Many of Ireland’s larger businesses could deploy new technologies and services over an extended period of time themselves. That is not what staying competitive needs, however. What it needs is speed and agility, not twelve month roadmaps and endless PowerPoints.
Product-led innovation leads to success
It also raises the question of how you innovate. Innovation is often perceived as a fuzzy concept, but it shouldn’t be.
Regardless of whether it is incremental or disruptive, it should be focused, value led, viewed through the lens of a product, and designed for the end user you want to delight. Not technology for technology’s sake, but a value-creating product or service that addresses demand.
Understanding the end customer persona, their challenges, and expectations is vital. The innovation process stems from here. When all of that is well understood should then be when emerging technologies are considered, not the other way around.
Achieving this level of competitive delivery requires agility – be that at a working group level or organisation-wide.
More often than not, businesses are stuck in an innovation rut, time poor, and in need of fresh eyes. They appreciate the opportunity in front of them but need a fueled engine to reach it.
This is why co-value creation is central to Ireland’s competitive success. Leveraging partners, sharing risk, harnessing knowledge from outside sources, commonly referred to by some as Open Innovation.
Bringing in new resources to help shoulder the load. The country is full of innovative and disruptive agents, each with their own strengths.
Evidence of this value proposition can be seen through the multi-year commitment of the Irish government and the 500m euro Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund which is open to provide millions in funding support on technology innovation projects executed by large companies working alongside Irish startups and academic partners.
Making a difference
But partners need to be flexible. Innovation is a journey with multiple stages and milestones, and partners must be willing and able to drop in at a critical stage.
Rolling up the sleeves and getting stuck in be it at ideation, design concept, prototyping, piloting, or anywhere in-between. It’s an iterative process, demanding reactive and adaptive work patterns.
Bringing in new agents helps foster a challenge culture. We spoke about being in an innovation rut, but that goes just as much for process and delivery too.
Crucially, the organisation still retains its IP, its competitive differentiator, when all is said and done. Because that’s what competitiveness comes down to, being the first on the scene. The organisation that delivered something innovative to the market, on time, and made a real difference.
Yes, innovation may be daunting, but it’s an essential element to any Irish business that wants to compete on the global stage. Let’s transform how Ireland does business and see everyone be better from it.
By Joe Dunleavy, VP of Innovation at Endava
About Joe Dunleavy:
Joe is an experienced executive in the Innovation, Software Delivery, FinTech and Business areas. In previous positions, he has held several leadership roles including Innovation Head, Interim CIO, Software Development Lead, and Technical Project Manager.
His experience spreads the range between IT start-up and global corporations, which helps him support a diverse range of clients.
Joe also holds degrees in UX, UI and Innovation, Innovation & Leadership, and Computer Science, and he is a certified Amazon Cloud Practitioner and Microsoft Azure Fundamentals professional.
Besides being passionate about technology and innovation, Joe also enjoys volunteering, food, coaching, sports, and spending time with his wife Dervla and their two kids Ava and Joseph.
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