Friday, September 23, 2016

CIOs as “Chief Innovation Officer”: Taking a Systematic Approach to Run an Innovative IT

Digital is the age of innovation.

Doing more with innovation is the mantra for any forward-looking organizations. Though every executive should make their voice heard on this front, have an opportunity and responsibility to participate in the innovation dialog and to come up with innovative ideas, CIOs generally have greater opportunities to stand out, and take leadership in driving innovation across their companies. Because most of the functions can make process innovation within their division, IT, on the other hand, has much more of an opportunity to enable incremental top-line and bottom-line value across the business, not just within IT, but across the functional border because IT is in the unique position to oversee business processes underneath, also foresee the latest technological trend, capture information-based business insight to either delight customers or catalyze business growth. In practice, how to take a systematic approach to run an innovative IT?


Be innovative from the business's lens: To run an innovative IT, it’s critical to listen, comprehend and understand the people and the business they are part of, before embarking on any new way of thinking to know where you have come from, enables you to move to a new place even quicker. LISTEN to your clients, stakeholders, vendors, partners and staff. IT has a great opportunity here to become an innovation engine and lead the business transformation. Be careful, you do not want to come across as having a solution looking for a problem. Rather than wait for the business to tell IT what they want, IT needs to proactively work with the business and partners upon the great new digital technologies which can change the business. Running a proactive and innovative IT is about making changes when people want things to stay the same, making data-based rational decisions when others rush to take gut-feeling decisions and responding quickly when others are slow. With the fast growing digital technologies and information, and the whole consumerization of IT movement has largely focused on IT getting its arms around the trend and 'managing' it. The other key factor for IT leaders is being keen about exploring new technologies and new markets. Make new rules like open doors, no fears to propose something completely new in loud among team members. That has the added benefit of steering business toward things IT recommends to use. The institutional trust, support, power, and autonomy make IT leaders’ vision a reality.  


Be innovative from outside-in via capturing customer insight: Digital is the age of customers. focusing on customer needs should be an easier path to grow the innovation fruit. It’s important for IT to be more innovative from an outside-in customer’s lens. If you're going to innovate without knowledge of "evident customer needs," then "the things that you are good at may distract you to build something which can really increase customer value and help business success for the long term. Customer inquiries are not just support related, but can foster new and better ways the application can perform and optimize every touch point of customer experience. Through catching customer insight and understanding their need, IT can reinvent itself as a customer champ and see it as an opportunity to reboot IT mentality as the innovation engine. Businesses also love to see IT getting deeply immersed in the new apps, devices, and solutions and make internal customers more productive, collaborative and smart.


Encourage innovation via building a risk-tolerance culture: There is no innovation without risk-taking. But it’s important to fail fast and fail forward. It’s important to build a risk-tolerance culture and open up an opportunity for people to stretch and try new things. It will, in the end, generate many more returns than were ever thought possible! There is nothing wrong that the business expects ROI, and most of the radical innovations are not low hanging fruits you can reap quickly, often you need to take calculated risks and make a wise innovation. Innovation strategy is a critical component of the business strategy, have the  commitment from the senior executives to engage in dialogue (formal and informal) to derive a viable business strategy that is enabled/driven by IT would be good. To take a systematic innovation approach, you should build a balanced innovation portfolio which includes incremental innovations, evolutionary innovation, and breakthrough innovations and manage risk effectively. Once it plays the innovation game, IT matures beyond being a cost center and acts more like a business partner, or business within a business, because its value proposition can be backed up with the hard number and soft impact.


Either disrupt or being disrupted. IT is at an inflection point to lead the organizational level digital transformation. IT is the key element of business innovation, either for catching customer delight or achieving business optimization or even bringing up the breakthrough growth opportunity. IT innovation capabilities directly impact how it helps the business gain competitive advantage and capture upcoming trend to compete for the future.

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