By Ben Rand,  manager, Content Marketing for XeroxDannyWootton

Say the word “innovation” and your thoughts mostly like go to ideas that changed the world: the Gutenberg press, penicillin, putting a man on the moon, the World Wide Web.

And to be sure, The Next Big Thing is on the minds of the professionals at CGI,a UK-based provider of IT and business process outsourcing services. But often, a game-changer isn’t what a client needs, says Danny Wootton, director of innovation and intellectual property at CGI.

CGI defines innovation as something that’s new to a client that provides a business benefit. “We’re looking for real, pragmatic things we can do for the customer, both now and in the future,” rather than blue-sky ideas with a long lead time or unproven theory, Wootton says.

The reason for that, Wootton says, is that the structure of the economy is on the precipice of significant changes. Companies will define their core functions more and more narrowly, to the point that “within 10 years’ time, most organizations will only employ 15 percent of the people they employ today,” he said at the Simple@Work conference in London earlier this winter. Business models will fundamentally change to the point that companies will hold onto only those things that are core to their business or provide a differentiation. The rest, they will “look to partner with somebody, outsource to somebody.”

Even, surprisingly enough, with competitors. Sometimes it just makes sense to join with competitors, for what amounts to commoditized processes, in a way that allows you to sharpen your focus on the core business. For instance, background checks in the financial industry are the same for every company. That process “doesn’t necessarily differentiate your experience,” Wootton said. “Your competitors could easily share the same process without changing their competitive advantages.”

Key to success is developing a common vision and understanding, to guide employees through periods of change. Without that common approach, “you’re going to struggle from the start,” he said.

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CGI is a global business with 68,000 professionals in 40 countries across the Americas, Asia-Pacific and Europe who provide end-to-end IT and business process services that facilitate the ongoing evolution of our clients’ businesses.