Executive insights on innovation from the recent Harvey Nash Tech Survey 2019

Harvey Nash has recently published the results of their newest study of the tech sector, The Harvey Nash Tech Survey 2019 [1]. It provides some interesting numbers backing up the well known problems of innovation and leadership in technology.


Idea Utilization

First of all, only 10% of the 1745 respondents think that their organizations are effective at identifying, testing and commercializing ideas. About 64% of the respondents deem their organizations not to be particularly good at any of these three activities. The average company tends to do OK in identifying ideas, and gets worse in validating and commercializing them. Interestingly, there’s no significant difference between small and big companies.


  • It is possible to utilize ideas effectively, regardless of the size of the organization
  • Yet, most of the organizations still don’t excel at it
  • Thus, it is possible to take advantage by outperforming the competition in innovation


Figure 1. How good your organization is in identifying, testing and validating, and scaling and commercializing ideas? Average of the responses from 1745 respondents. 2 pts = “Very effective” (good enough), 1 pt = “Quite effective” (so-so), 0 pt = “Not very effective” (bad).

Figure 2. Aggregated results: Idea Utilization = Identifying + Validating + Commercializing Ideas. Average of the responses from 733 SME (<= 500 employees) and 990 corporate (> 500 employees) respondents. 6 pts = “Very effective” in all three (perfect idea utilization), 0 pt = “Not very effective” in any of them (new ideas born dead). Small companies utilize ideas somewhat better, but the difference is not very significant.

Figure 3. If an organization is good at identifying, validating and commercializing ideas, then ideas are likely to materialize. If any of these three functions are broken, ideas are likely to get stuck. Independent from the size of their organization, only 10% of the respondents feel that ideas likely materialize at their workplace. In large organizations (> 500 employees), ideas are more likely to get stuck that in smaller ones.


Project Overload

What about getting rid of innovation projects proven not to be worth chasing? 80% of the respondents observed that their organizations are not “very effective” at pulling the plug. This rhymes with a recent study published in HBR on initiative overload [2].

Takeaway: Innovation needs focus. An important part of it is to test what could possibly work, and get rid of the ideas that have proven not to be working.

Figure 4. About 20% of the organizations are “very effective” at stopping innovation projects that yield no results. Smaller companies are somewhat better at it than big corporate.


A Note on Additive Manufacturing for Hardware Executives

The survey asked which technology do you think is making an impact in your industry. No surprise, Software as a Service (SaaS, read: Cloud), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) came to be the first three, way ahead of everything else.

What did surprise me, though, is that “3D Printing” was the last with 7% of the respondents answering that it mattered. Even worse, only 21% working in the engineering sector think that it is a big thing (it’s 28% in manufacturing). For me, it clearly shows that engineering is still lagging behind with the adoption of agile. 3D printing, or additive manufacturing in general, is key for the rapid prototyping of complex hardware. It enables the iterative development of hardware pieces, a method that is well known in the software industry for decades. Early feedback loops from product iterations create the learning cycles agile product development is based upon. I certainly hope that as agile conquers the hardware sector, additive manufacturing technologies will advance even faster than today.


  • Additive manufacturing is still not taken serious enough, not even in the engineering sector
  • Additive manufacturing is useful for rapid prototyping, which enables agile hardware development
  • Thus, investing in small scale additive manufacturing capabilities can make hardware development much more competitive



There are some interesting findings on leadership as well, which I will share in an upcoming post.

This post is based on my own analysis of the raw data. Thank you, Harvey Nash, for making the data public!



[1] The Harvey Nash Tech Survey 2019. Link

[2] Rose Hollister, Michael D. Watkins, Too Many Projects — How to deal with initiative overload, HBR 96/5, 2018. Link

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