This layer is where the fun happens. As we discussed in our recent newsletter article, Pace-Layered Application Strategy: A Look at Systems of Innovation, this layer can help your business thrive in years to come. That’s why it’s so important to have a solid management plan in place. Here are a few tips:

1. Make sure you’ve correctly identified the applications (current and planned) for this layer. Look for ones with a fast rate of change, dynamic process characteristics, and a strategic focus on supporting new ideas.

2. Develop a strategic plan that covers everything on a 2-3 month basis—budget, support, maintenance, architectural standards, data management, etc. The business should provide 75 percent of the support.

3. Invest in these applications as an expense, but keep in mind that with effective planning of the other two layers, you should be able to shift some funding over—most likely from the system of record layer.

4. Seek help. You should invest in consulting services from an external partner to help train business users. Of the three layers, an external partner is most valuable here when it comes to implementation.

5. While you should typically deploy on premise solutions, remain flexible when it comes to sourcing. As this is the experimental layer, you can go with applications that are custom, open source, and more.

6. Establish governance, integrity and integration standards for the connective tissues around the layers. Be sure to take advantage of Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) technology.

7. Try to pinpoint areas with potential for innovation with new and emerging technologies, such as mobile, cloud, big data and analytics—and then find ways to link them together. 

Remember, the systems of innovation layer will ultimately help determine whether your business stays agile and ahead of the competitive curve—or gets so firmly entrenched in its ways that it loses any competitive edge. Manage this layer the right way, and go out there and discover what more your business has to offer.