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Every software supplier in the world claims to be innovative. Indeed, every software supplier probably thinks they are innovative – which doesn’t necessarily mean they all are, of course. At DRAMS we take innovation in distillery software seriously because we know it’s what our customers demand of us. Working with some of the most prestigious spirit producers in the world, we understand that the technology supporting their businesses must be as creative and forward thinking as they are.

This means we can’t afford to rest for a second. We explicitly focus on innovation at every level of our organisation. Here are some of the things we’ve learnt down the years.

Innovation comes from different sources

Innovation isn’t about having lots of ideas; it’s about having the right ideas. (Of course, you often need lots of ideas in order to get to the right ones, but it’s important to focus on the end goal). So how do we in the DRAMS team get to the right ideas? We firmly believe it is really important to get ideas from a variety of sources – both inside and outside of the company. At DRAMS we are very proud of our experienced team, but we know very well that our products wouldn’t be half as good if we only looked inwards for inspiration.

We therefore use a number of methods to obtain the best ideas from our customers, including our annual (and incredibly popular) User Group; our Aha! online product roadmap portal; regular webinars; and Special Interest Groups, which allow groups of customers to collectively shape the specification of a particular development. Through a combination of these methods we are sure that we are developing products that are more thoroughly thought through, and ultimately more valuable to our clients.

Innovation requires dedicated resource

In the modern world everybody is busy. Innovative ideas are incredibly important, but they are rarely urgent – after all, who is really going to mind if that upcoming development arrives in 18 months’ time or a couple of months later? The problem, of course, is that the urgent requirements are continual, so before you know it that upcoming development has slipped by a year and it’s suddenly looking a lot less innovative than it did a year ago.

We believe the key to driving genuine innovation is the allocation of dedicated resource – which is why we created a Technology & Innovation team whose time is specifically ring-fenced for future projects. By combining this dedicated resource with the ideas from multiple sources outlined above, we believe we are in a great position to deliver genuine innovation that benefits our customers.

Innovation is worth it

Innovation is hard. It can be difficult to come up with genuinely new ideas in the first place, and it’s a challenge to identify the right ones to progress. And then you have to actually develop the technology solution – which often means months or even years of hard work, slowly progressing towards an end goal that can sometimes feel a long way off.

But it is worth it.

Not all of our innovative ideas had quite the impact we hoped for – such is the nature of software development – but all were worth it, because they have created a culture of innovation which has benefited our team and our clients. The more we innovate, the more we future proof our technology, and the happier it makes our customers.

Not only that; our innovation has benefited our clients in practical ways, too. In one notable example, the UK team at one major spirit producer reviewed the market and concluded that DRAMS was the most innovative solution available; and therefore decided to entrust their future with us. Fast forward a couple of years and that decision has paid off handsomely, with DRAMS now adopted as the chosen solution for the parent company at a global level – a fantastic success story for all involved.

None of this would have been possible without an innovative technology solution, but also a group of individuals with the willingness to take a new approach. Which, when you think about it, sounds a lot like innovation.

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An Interview with Ron Welsh, Master Blender and Strategic Inventory Manager, Beam Suntory

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