The word “innovation” is associated with larger-than-life technology like maglev trains and Elon Musk mapping out plans to colonize Mars, making innovation a daunting proposition—not everyone has the time or the budget to shoot for the moon (har har). So how do we keep IT innovating and moving forward?

Not all innovation must be disruptive

Change doesn’t always have to be huge, though the type of change that makes headlines often is exactly that—and this is typically what we’d call disruptive innovation. Clayton Christensen, who coined the term, defines it as “disrupting an existing market, industry, or technology to produce something new and more efficient and worthwhile. It is at once destructive and creative.”

Inspiring as that sounds, an IT department that’s already busy keeping the lights on might not have the bandwidth for destruction. The alternative? Incremental innovation—making a series of small, predictable improvements adding up to significant changes, but without the associated risks.

So what makes a successful incremental innovation?

Research on incremental innovation shows that lack of coordination, lengthy development times, risk-averse culture are the risks that have most significantly impacted the incremental projects to be non-successful. How can you mitigate these issues? We’ve put together 3 tips:

1) Narrow down your goals

This goes hand in hand with the definition of incremental innovation—shooting for a top-to-bottom change presents the exact kind of risk you want to avoid in terms of cost and challenging end-users. Choose one specific pain point, and address that directly rather than uprooting the entire system. In the case of Newmind Group’s Autotask issues, we found the CRM reporting to be the single, most critical feature needed, so when we began searching for new tools, that was the highest priority.

2) Communicate your change!

Brian Miller, the CIO of Davenport University, begins a deployment by planning the communication surrounding a project before he even begins developing the change itself. Today, more than ever, technology is adopted fast, but within an organization it can be slow and difficult. One way to stay on top of it is through clear communication—prepare the affected parties for change!

The diffusion of innovation model shows that only 16% of users adopt new tools quickly and independently, so it’s important to let the affected parties know what may be getting phased out, the dates for when new implementation will begin, and any delays or downtime they may experience during the deployment/implementation of the change.

3) Find the best way for you to test, and test asap!

Identify some test users from among the affected party—some fast adopters, and some slow—you want the best experience for everyone, not just the quick learners. Once you’ve determined whether they can help you test the innovation before a full deployment, prepare a criteria for testing and feedback, so you ensure that this addresses the pain point to the fullest extent. Once the feedback tells you that the pain point is being solved, you can begin moving forward with your change!

Once you get the ball rolling on one change, you can begin looking at the next steps! It’s a gradual process, but it’s a process of improvement. If you’re interested in exploring an in-depth picture of the process, check out our post: Incremental Innovation: Find the best tools for now, not the best tool ever