Thursday, December 3, 2015

Three Aspects to Run IT as an Innovation Engine

Running IT as an innovation engine needs to close three gaps: leadership gap, collaboration gap, and implementation gap.

At industrial era, the majority of IT organizations are perceived as a support and maintenance center by their business partners, with a lower level of maturity. Nowadays information is the lifeblood, and the emergent technology is more often the business disruptor. And due to the changing nature of information & technology, IT is always in the changing environment creating unexpected situations and requiring quick and appropriate responses based on the conditions, IT needs to run as an innovation engine and leading their companies’ digital transformation in a proactive way.

Leadership innovation: The spirit of the organization is from Top” ~Peter Drucker. One of the most appropriate titles of CIO is Chief Innovation Officer. CIOs generally have a greater opportunity to stand out and take a lead in driving innovation across their companies. 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, 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 cross-organizational scope; from innovation management perspective, the innovative leadership team should well mix the innovator personas: movers and shakers, thought leaders, critical thinkers, experimenters, reframers, set the right tone to inspire the new thinking and encourage the new way to do things and lead enterprise-wide innovation management.

Process Innovation: IT is at the unique position to oversight business process and set the right policy for their business’s technology and information usage. Therefore, IT also plays a critical role in business process innovation and strike the right balance between innovation and standardization. Standardization is inside-the-box (ITB), and Innovation is outside-the-box (OTB). Hence, organizations indeed need both, and, in fact, cannot realistically exist without a healthy balance of both. That balance, ought to actually be strongly in favor of standardization at the vast majority of the time! Think 80:20 rule here, although the golden ratio may vary based on the culture, capability and overall maturity of an organization. IT should enable business innovation with disciplines and the right tools (such as collaborative platform, analytics tools., etc) at the organizational scope. CIO is also in a unique position to align process, technology and people, from generating ideas on applying technology and data assets to drive value, the oversight is needed in managing innovation life cycle. Also, share those ideas with business colleagues in a non-threatening manner that will resonate with them.

Culture Innovation: Innovation is not just about technology, Innovation is not always equal to the latest gadget, it’s about people, culture,  partnership, manners, etc. Isn't that what innovation is all about: do it better, differentiate yourself from your completion, run, grow and transform the business. So educate IT team on the business and encourage them to engage with business counterparts in a value-oriented manner. Building an environment where the only thing you get fired for is not asking hard questions. Often the most disruptive person is the one you want to harness, channel the energy, enthusiasm, and ideas. many legacy businesses come with a legacy mindset, the old way to do the things, lack three elements to spark innovation: vision, passion, and progression. Employees don’t have the sense of urgency to adapt to the changes or think differently (nonlinear or different angle). But an innovative culture encourages their people to  see the old problems from every direction and find different solutions.

Running IT as an innovation engine needs to close three gaps: leadership gap, collaboration gap, and implementation gap. Develop a deep understanding of the business value chain, competitive landscape, business processes and capabilities, revenue models, P&L drivers, and balance sheet strengths and constraints. In many organizations, IT is the custodian of solutions and data assets that can be applied in new and different ways to generate massive business value that far exceeds what other functions can incrementally bring to the table. And an innovative IT is high-performing, high-capable, and high-mature to leapfrog their business’s digital transformation.


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