Heads of IT departments are encountering a dramatic shift in their expectations at the moment. Gartner vice president, Mark Raskino, recently wrote in on his blog: “The inventive CIO will strive to develop unique new technology capabilities for competitive advantage, using a powerful and creative internal technology resource base.” He goes on to say that businesses need to make information and technology a core competency again to stay ahead of the competition in their industry.
Combine this with the finding that half of all companies are planning to increase their IT spending this year and you’d be forgiven to think that CIOs are in a pretty sweet spot at the moment. In reality, being the focus of the company’s attention can be pretty daunting, and with great influence comes great expectations the IT department needs to fulfil.
The main challenge in the new role of the CIO is the need for speed. Technological innovations need to be implemented faster than ever, while at the same time ensuring the best possible user experience to add value to business processes. Especially in the manufacturing industry, lead times have shortened from several months to just weeks, helping them to stay at the cutting edge and ahead of the competition. Time is money for retailers, too, as they have to capture customers’ buying behaviours more quickly than ever in order to react to consumer trends.
This is why many CIOs have adopted the agile concept from software developers and rolled it out across their department and the wider business. To free up time and resources for CIOs allowing them to focus on innovation, they outsource tasks that were previously at the core of the IT department such as infrastructure and data storage. Cloud hosting and software-as-a-service technologies have now matured, which gives CIOs peace of mind to focus on innovation within their organisation.
But cross your heart, do you really know how to be innovative in your daily job? How should CIOs go about becoming business innovation leaders? We should not confuse innovations with inventions. You don’t need to have a Eureka moment and suddenly come up with a great idea to be an innovation leader. Nor is every inventor is a great innovator.
Innovation occurs when someone takes a great idea, sees the business opportunity behind it and makes it happen. Steve Jobs didn’t invent the computer mouse. In fact, it had been around for some time in a Hewlett Packard research lab. But when the Apple visionary first saw one there, he reportedly exclaimed “Don’t you realise you’re sitting on a goldmine here?” Jobs immediately saw the potential of the mouse, optimised it for the mass market and made it a key part of the Mac 2.
If CIOs today want to spot an undiscovered goldmine within their business, they need complete transparency. Thanks to advanced Enterprise Resource Planning solutions (ERP), CIOs have exactly that – a single view of the whole business, enabling them to identify where processes can be streamlined and resources better managed.
If CIOs want to truly embrace business innovation, they need to become champion of a company-wide culture of innovation. They should encourage the seamless collaboration between employees across different sites around the world that ERP allows. Employees on the ground often know best how a product, process or service could be improved, and the exchange of individual ideas can trigger serendipity – the perfect breeding ground for the next truly great innovation.