We were honoured this month by Lenovo as their Innovative Partner of the Year. As well as thanking Lenovo for this award, we thank every one of our staff and customers, because they are all true innovators.

Computer Merchants has a team of people dedicated to innovating the way we serve our own customers, as well as helping them to innovate in their own businesses.

We are always making small, incremental steps that make a real difference. Things like our recently launched app, that lets our customers see exactly what we do about their order or project progress, so they can always access the latest information.

Innovation is a word we hear a lot, but for it to have substance, it takes more than just good ideas. There are four key components to innovation.

Vision. One of the most enjoyable things we do is bouncing around ideas with our customers, and hearing about their plans for the future. While it would be easy to talk about the technical experience and skills we bring to the conversation, the fact is that we are always learning from our customers too.

Our customers will often hear us repeat a phrase that is the key to the way we do business: you speak, we listen. To help you on your quest to reach your vision, we need to know a lot about your business, your industry and your people.

Our customers are what makes this industry so exciting, because they are so invested in building strong, exciting businesses. For one customer, this meant incremental changes to enable online, self-service print jobs, helping them to become a leader in the printing industry. For another, it was getting the in-depth understanding of their customers that allowed them to anticipate buying patterns and stock needs.

Whether small or large organisations, our customers are visionaries in their own rights, and we are grateful to join them on that journey.

Skills. One of the reasons that we consider ourselves partners with our customers is that it is the combination of our skills and their business knowledge and passion that makes innovation happen.

The team goes beyond Computer Merchants. It extends to our technology vendors. A good technology partner should have the contacts and relationships with major and boutique IT vendors, so they can readily enlist international expertise. The big advantage of this is that a customer in Brisbane can build on what has been learned from projects around the world, instead of starting from scratch.

This collaboration helps the project team to spot opportunities. Bringing together diverse skills helps make connections between ideas and technologies. Working as a team with customers helps us reach higher, to create solutions that go beyond expectations.

Foundations. Something we have always found to be true is that building the right foundations is a real enabler of business innovation. After all, it is hard to innovate when you are constantly wrestling with storage bottlenecks or unreliable servers.

This is one of the areas where the likes of Lenovo are a huge help. Not just the reliability and performance factor (although let’s face it, those are very handy. They’ve really embraced the idea of simplifying datacentres, through technologies like hyperconvergence, so that IT staff don’t have to spend so much time on managing the basics.

Aside from striving for sufficient simplicity, the big infrastructure quest is for flexibility and scalability. There can be little more frustrating than having a great idea, only to have it grind to a halt because capacity is insufficient.

Invested people. There are plenty of good reasons for involving all your people in business innovation. From our own experience, we know that it is often someone in the warehouse, or in logistics or in customer service, who can see where we can do something a lot better.

The people who make up your business are a tremendous resource. And if something is impacting their ability to work efficiently, or to serve their customers to the best of their ability, they will be able to identify exactly where the problem lies.

This front-line intelligence is gold for any business seeking to get advantage over their competitors, so harnessing it makes sense. We continue to invest in incremental transformation of our own business, and it is our people who drive the most meaningful changes.

One of the exciting things about this transformation process is that it brings people together. Sometimes, it is when a sales manager works on a project with a programmer and a finance specialist that new ideas are born.

Chances are, your business has many natural innovators, so creating a fertile ground for people to connect and share ideas inevitably pays off.

For more about the innovations that create business transformation, contact the team at Computer Merchants.