ASX-listed Spotless Group is six months into a corporate innovation drive that it hopes will inject new ideas and thinking into the way it services customers.

The company’s general manager of brand, innovation and technology, Julian Fogarty, believes the program is already kicking goals, despite its relative youth.

“Coming into this organisation ten months ago, I was enthused by the appetite to think differently and try new things,” Fogarty told Information Age.

“The engagement [in the business] has been exceptional, but we are early in that cultural shift. It takes time.”

Spotless is a provider of integrated facilities management services to places like venues, prisons, offices and schools. Services include catering and hospitality, cleaning, linen, maintenance, security and waste management.

Like a growing number of large organisations, the company is embracing digital disruption and looking for ways it can shake up its business and stay ahead of the curve.

“Innovation is a core strategic focus for Spotless,” Fogarty said.

“We recognise that we need to become a smarter Spotless and the way we’ll get there is by driving a cultural shift, which engenders a more entrepreneurial mindset and creative thinking.”

For Fogarty, it’s about taking a multi-faceted approach; there will be many paths to potential success and he’s treading several at once.

“We’ve focused initially on the low hanging fruit that demonstrates success, and if you can measure success you can then justify further investment,” he said.

“We’re telling the stories loudly in the organisation so people can see what’s happening and feel more confident in coming forward [with ideas] themselves.

“We’re rolling out some learning programs to give people almost self-help tools to approach innovation.

“It’s really a multi-faceted approach that has to be balanced as always with the realities of meeting business targets today. It’s a balancing act.”

One path to innovation is through the company’s existing contracts with facility owners.

“We’ve been setting up an innovation framework for our key contracts,” Fogarty said.

Ideas are sought from those who work in the contracted operations. From those, a shortlist is distilled based on “which ideas align to the key focus areas of the customer”; these are considered by an innovation committee, and eventually some ideas get seed funding.

“We’ve got that running across a number of our key projects,” Fogarty said.

“We also have a central repository where we track ideas that come in that can be applied across our business.

“We’ve got to attack this on all fronts – tapping into the ingenuity of our people and then management looking at the best ideas and where we can invest; and creating an environment where people feel comfortable coming forward with these new ideas, where they understand how they can safely experiment and try new things without causing too much risk.

“That’s the culture we’re looking to trial.”

In addition to looking internally, the company is now inviting ideas from outside its four walls. It is engaging with universities and is also preparing to a run a hackathon at the MCG from November 21-22 to find ways to apply the Internet of Things (IoT) to its service operations.

“We really are focusing our efforts here on things that can improve customer experience,” Fogarty said.

“That’s not just our direct customer [the venue] – it’s also their customers.

“What we do in our integrated facilities management offering ultimately underpins great experiences for people who come to the venues.”