My quest to better understand the scaling challenge in digital transformation led to focus my research on the challenge of transitioning – the very needed – digital innovations (DIs), including processes, products, services and models, to operationalisation or commercialisation at scale in incumbent firms.  

According to recent industry estimates, around 75% of DIs still stall before reaching the desired scale (Martin 2018). This is a big issue; if companies continue to struggle to reap the benefits of their investment, we will have an endless cycle of search and failure.  

One of my areas of interest is the role of innovation managers in the transition to scale of digital innovations, especially when these innovations are developed in separated in dedicated structures (e.g., Digital Innovation Units, Innovation Labs, New Venture Units).  

Recently, I had the change to attend  ISPIM – International Society for Professional Innovation Management conference 2023, held in beautiful Ljubljana, and present some of my research. I was very happy to learn that my paper “Digital Innovation: Exploring Integration and Transition Modes in Scaling Success” was one of the three nominees for the Alex Goffman Award for the best student paper. 

Source: own photo.

Conference paper presented at XXIV ISPIM Innovation Conference and published in conference proceedings.











The Role of Innovation Managers in the Transition to Scale of Digital Innovations: Key Takeaways 

The rise of digital technology is reshaping the landscape of businesses globally. In a comprehensive study, we delved into the critical role innovation managers play within large incumbent firms during their digital transformation journeys. Here’s what we found: 

  1. The Orchestrating Role of Innovation Managers: Innovation managers are not just pioneers of innovative ideas. They are the very bridges that connect novel digital solutions to traditional business operations. They facilitate communication, handle resources, and manage complex interdependencies to ensure that innovations don’t just remain ideas but become scalable solutions. In this, innovation managers are the key enablers of the transition to scale of digital innovations by orchestrating the integration of new digital solutions and offerings with core business, ensuring these find a suitable home in the core of the organisation and managing the process through which these digital innovations migrate to the core structures of the organisation. 
  2. The Standard Transition Model: Innovation managers have in mind a standard transition model for digital innovations. It’s thought that innovations will smoothly integrate with core business, become self-sufficient in the core of the organisation, and then scale. However, the reality of such transitions can be vastly different. 
  3. Challenges in Digital Innovation: The process of transitioning digital innovations is riddled with challenges. From resource allocation hurdles to cumbersome task allocation in core businesses, innovation managers frequently face obstacles in turning a digital idea into a successful operation. 
  4. Adapting to Challenges: One size does not fit all. Depending on the challenges faced, innovation managers might deviate from the standard transition model. These deviations are essential to ensure that digital innovations can continue to progress towards becoming scaled solutions, but they also come with important trade-offs.  

In conclusion, as the digital landscape rapidly evolves, the role of innovation managers becomes ever more pivotal. They stand at the crossroads of traditional business operations and groundbreaking digital solutions, ensuring not just the birth of innovative ideas but their successful journey to large-scale operations. 

Despite their crucial role, research has only recently started to investigate the actions of innovation managers beyond overseeing the innovation process. We need more research that brings insights into the role of innovation managers in the implementation of digital innovations, so that we can better understand how transition to scale challenges emerge, what strategies, actions or mechanics are used to cope with these challenges and how, in turn, these affect scaling.  

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