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Here’s how to innovate and manage R&D for a tech company on a modest budget


As a technology company, research and development is the cornerstone of our business. In fact, a government grant allowed us to create the first version of our current product, a Business Management System.

Being a relatively small business in an industry dominated by large multinational organisations, our R&D budgets are a drop in the ocean in comparison. However, there are distinct advantages to being smaller and nimbler than your competitors when it comes to innovation.

We are closer to our customers so are able to better understand their needs and challenges, we can move much faster in implementing new improvements or products and we have more control over the direction of our R&D and how it ultimately impacts the organisation.

Our R&D has allowed us to produce and maintain our competitive advantage. We’ve been able to do this by making the most of our comparatively modest R&D budget. This is what we’ve learnt from 13 years of constant innovation.

Listen to your customers

Listening seems pretty straightforward, but it’s how you listen that makes the difference. It’s also about what you then do with this information from a R&D perspective. Early on we built a tool to capture product feature requests from clients, identify needs and new capabilities, and facilitate the synthesis into product solutions using Agile principles.

We have worked closely with clients to deliver prototypes and mature new product capability. Their feedback has been critical. As a local company, we have a distinct advantage over the multinationals that have offshore development teams. As such, we have developed much closer relationships with our clients.

Forget single solutions

A single solution approach may work if you’re the size of SAP, where you know customers will end changing their business to suit the products. But when you’re smaller you need to approach innovation from the other side.

Rather than working towards a single solution, like most software companies, Holocentric aims to generalise the solution so it can be configured to solve a range of problems for the end user. Our R&D model seeks to sample a broad range of requests and market information, and understand the inherent patterns so a broadly useful product capability can be created.

Think both long and short term

A lot of R&D tends to be reactive, for instance, “Our customers are asking for more functionality in this tool, we need to expand it.” This is fine but you also need to be working towards larger goals regarding where you want to take your product line. The fact is your customers don’t even know what they will want or need in the future.

Holocentric’s R&D has both short term and long term outputs. Short term activities typically involve R&D associated with refining and extending the existing product line by considering immediate client needs. Long term activities involve studying and refining patterns that foster innovation.

Innovation is a term that gets tossed around a lot in business. The reality is it takes time, a dedicated R&D budget and a lot of dead ends before you hit on a winning concept. But it’s essential. It’s not about how big your budget is, it really does come down to how you use that budget.

Bruce Nixon is the CEO at Holocentric which helps organisations to improve performance by helping them to understand how people, process and technology come together to satisfy client needs, meet regulatory obligations and achieve business outcomes. The Holocentric BMS addresses the gap between enterprise systems and business needs by acting as a dynamic model of your business operations that draws upon the relationships between all aspects of operations.

Bruce Nixon Holocentric high res