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Starbucks IT boss: Businesses must create process for innovation

If you are not innovating today "you are probably stagnating tomorrow" was the message from Starbucks EMEA IT director Robert Teagle, as he addressed a business crowd in east London last week.

The technology boss suggested that organisations must create a process for innovation if they are to thrive, arguing that "innovation is not an activity" but a process that must be structured from ideation through to design and test stage.

"Without a process you're only generating ideas, which probably won't go anywhere," he explained to a business crowd at IP Expo Europe on Thursday.

Creating partnerships across different departments in a business is also "key" to becoming an innovative company, he added, with support from marketing, finance and the highest level required for success.

"It's something we should all be doing – and can be doing – as part of our organisations," he said, during his presentation entitled 'Managing Innovation and Disruptive Technologies in Retail'.

Teagle, who oversees Starbucks' IT operations in 34 countries across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, spanning approximately 2,100 stores, has led the coffee chain's tech department since 2007. Over that seven-year period, Starbucks has grown its reputation as a retail innovator, particularly as a leader in offering customers the opportunity to use its mobile app – which combines a loyalty scheme – to pay for orders.

Earlier this year Starbucks also starting to roll-out wireless phone charging spots in stores based in its home US market, with initial pilots for the facility to be installed in Asia and Europe are planned before the end of 2014.

The IT director used the example of these mobile services as how innovation can work in a business, saying that the process evolved from simply providing sockets to allow people to charge their phones, to the introduction of wireless charging hubs on tables.

When considering the next iteration, Teagle said: "It could be charging via Wi-Fi – who knows?"

Offering guidance to other companies looking to innovate in their organisations, he advised testing and experimenting with ideas and embedding innovation teams into functional departments. He said: "There'll be certain initiatives you want to get out quickly, but there'll be some that evolve over time."

If an idea doesn't have instant traction, it may have success later down the line, he added.

Teagle is scheduled to speak at RBTE 2015, which will take place between 10-11 March at London's Olympia. Registration for the two-day event is now open, and if you're interested in attending please click on the below banner.

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