Embedding innovation across the organisation

The Best in Innovation Award winner displayed an approach that lifted it above a distinguished field

Kealan Delaney, chief executive, Delmec

It can be hard to quantify and difficult to predict, but it is easily recognised.

Delmec is a telecoms infrastructure provider, with a speciality in mobile communications. Despite the pace of technological change in the sector, telecoms companies have often remained quite traditional in their organisation and operation.

According to Deirdre Purcell, area vice-president Ireland, Salesforce, what distinguished Delmec for this year’s Best Managed Companies, Best in Innovation Award was how it had organisationally embedded innovation throughout the company.

“They have been on this journey for a couple of years, and innovation is embedded across their organisation, but it is absolutely driven by people,” Purcell said.

Salesforce, a name synonymous with innovation itself, is the lead sponsor of the Best in Innovation award and Technology Partner of the Best Managed Companies programme.

Purcell said she was impressed by the depth and breadth of innovation seen across the nominees, and more broadly in the Irish business community. In looking to evaluate innovation and rank efforts among organisations, Purcell said there are many things to look for.

Organisations, large and small, can struggle to implement something as simple as putting their customer first, because a business can be quite siloed, and having data in different places can make it hard to extract and use to drive business decisions, she said.

“When innovation is embedded across every function within the organisation, that is when you really start seeing value and that innovative mind, the thinking and the strategy comes to the fore,” Purcell said.

It was that organisation-wide aspect of Delmec’s efforts that distinguished the company for the judges.

Delmec came into being from a 1970s family company, when group manager Brian Evans joined in 2000. Headquartered in Carlow, its offices now extend across Tanzania, DR Congo, South Africa, Poland, Pakistan and the Philippines, working from the cloud with more than 20 nationalities represented in the business based all around the world.

“Within Delmec,” Purcell said, “a telecoms network company that is now ready to offer networks as a service out to the industry – they are absolutely at the forefront of what they are doing. They are driving innovation with people and building on the technologies like mobile apps and mobile auditing.”

It is the output of what that innovation is offering for its customers, Purcell continued, which is driving lower cost, greater probability, time savings, better data and better analysis.

According to Kealan Delaney, Delmec’s chief executive, the Best Managed Companies application process is an opportunity to verify and validate the business plan, while learning from coaches and other participants.

Compiling the document pulls the management team together, Delaney said, and helps the team focus on the key areas of strategy, capability and innovation, culture and commitment, and governance and financials.

As strong as planning is, it can, Delaney admitted, result in “forcing a review and rethink that ensures we are aligned and on a sustainable growth trajectory”.

A review of the submission document and of the company by external coaches in Deloitte and Bank of Ireland, helps ensure a thorough review and all gaps are filled, he said. “This skilled external assessment of the company strategy and development, we believe, is a key success factor for Delmec and for the Best Managed Companies award in general.”

“The expert advice provided in the process has been extremely beneficial over the years and has helped the company mature and develop in its thinking,” Delaney said.

It has been a journey for Delmec, Damien Kelly, head of engineering and innovation, said. Delmec has always been an innovative organisation. This is part of the culture of the company, he said, albeit in the past this has been a little ad hoc.

Kelly said that, over the past two years, the company had undertaken an aggressive innovation strategy to revolutionise the company. “A new department was established in 2020 comprising a specialised engineering team, consultancy and innovation teams consisting of subject matter experts. Since 2020, we have been building this new team to drive our overall company strategy as we decided innovation was to be at the forefront of how we can grow our business.

“Our engineering and innovation team are embedded in each department,” he said.

‘’Our innovation process is quite simple, with our five-phase gate process from idea generation, concept development, detailed development, testing/validation and market launch.

“This allows us to focus our team on the right projects that help drive our overall strategy,” Kelly said. “Our industry is quite unique and requires a large amount of collaboration. We have uncovered the opportunity to position Delmec in the ‘infrastructure specialist’ market for alternative networks. This is especially important for complex and rural locations. These opportunities and changes are all essential to the achievement of our new strategy, with the key to its success boldly clear: our people.

“We believe the people that make up our business are the most important aspect to our innovation strategy. We create a culture of striving for change and innovative ways of making our life better, all our ideas come from the people, which helps us create an agile, forward-thinking company,” Kelly said.

From a Salesforce perspective, Purcell is used to seeing innovation across businesses in Ireland, which is especially important in the current climate of uncertainty.

“In some ways,” Purcell said, “there are parallels between the start of the pandemic and where we are now in this new phase of global uncertainty. What we saw during the pandemic was companies either began a digital strategy or accelerated the ones they were on because they needed to in order to survive. Those who were able to act fast, were able to come out stronger.

Salesforce is an enterprise, global CRM provider, said Purcell, and at its heart it brings companies and their customers together in the digital era. It puts the customer at the heart of everything the company wants to do.

That approach and philosophy, carefully considered, thoughtfully implemented and embedded across all functions was what elevated Delmec among strong candidates, Purcell said.

“As much as we see amazing innovations, it is those that are across the business, and embedded with every function, that really drive success,” Purcell said.