Ignitho and frugal innovation

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Also posted on: The IM Blog

Ignitho, whose name is a composite of “igniting thought”, is a UK-based software house. Now, this is not an area I usually cover, or discuss. However, Ignitho is interesting because it supports what is known as “frugal innovation”.

Frugal innovation, or frugal engineering, is about doing more with less. In particular, it leverages what is known as “appropriate technology”. An example would be the wind-up radio invented by Trevor Baylis, intended for communities where there was no access to electricity and no money for batteries.

Drawing on work done by Jaideep Prabhu, who is a professor at Cambridge University, Ignitho has developed a methodology that takes frugal principles and then applies them to the development of software prototypes. This may need some explanation.

In most large (and not so large) organisations there will be people who come up with interesting and innovative ideas. However, it is typically the case that there are only limited resources – whether in people or money – to invest in such ideas. This is where frugality comes into the equation. Actually, you may be prepared to invest seed money into interesting ideas but lack the physical resources necessary to test them out. And this is where Ignitho comes in: it specialises in building prototypes for you, that you can test out to see if they are worth pursuing further. Needless to say, it aims to do this for a very reasonable/small budget, typically using open source software as well as the frugal methodology already mentioned.

Of course, if you like the prototype and you want to take it into production, then a greater and more formal development effort will be required. You could, of course, start from scratch but, more likely, you will want to leverage the prototype, which you can do via Ignitho’s outcome-based Agile and DevOps approach. This way, you can continue to be bound by the principles of frugality, when you get into the development of production systems.

I think this is very interesting. It’s outside of my main areas of research so I can’t really say whether Ignitho is unique in its approach or not – I would guess that it is – but in any case it fits nicely within Bloor Research’s concept for the mutable enterprise.