Monday, June 18, 2018

CIOs’s Big “HOW” Inquiries to Run Innovative IT

Innovation management requires curious attitude to ask deep questions and scientific discipline to weave much deeper whole systems.

With the exponential growth of information and disruptive nature of technology, IT can no longer just “keep the lights on,” IT becomes the business in the business to do more with innovation and lead changes proactively in many forward-thinking organizations. IT leaders need to think strategically and creatively about alternative business solutions and ask themselves tough questions. Here are CIOs’ five “HOW”s to run innovative IT.

How do you handle investigations of new technologies? The highly innovative organizations depend more heavily on its technological knowledge and information refinement to develop and commercialize innovation. Nowadays, often technologies are the disruptive force behind digital innovation. Therefore, IT leaders should share their vision and run IT as a change department of the business. From an investment perspective, advanced technologies are the driving forces for business growth as well as business model innovation. Adapting and realizing the business benefit requires investment wisely, and thus there are risks evolved. When IT leaders have controllers’ mindset with risk avoidance mentality, IT perhaps ends up to live with current technologies and standards rather than investing in the future aggressively. But forward-look IT leaders understand that technology-led innovation is not only for figuring out the better way to run the business today but also building business competency for the long run. It is important to make sure that the management is foresightful enough for “doing more with innovation.” The focus should be on what these technologies can do for the businesses, not on the technology itself.

Do you work with your team to investigate different paths for the potential future? Innovation is about figuring out alternative ways to do things. With many existing or emerging complex business problems, it is critical to define the most compelling and unique approach to addressing those needs, analyze the benefits per cost of that approach, quantify why the chosen approach is better than the competition and other ways. More broadly speaking, forward-thinking businesses need to think long-term and investigate different paths for the potential future. Digital innovation has a very broad spectrum for accelerating rapid change from all dimensions. Do NOT focus on IT innovation in a low-risk territory and incremental enhancements only. Perhaps most of the times, the business needs to take a hybrid approach to strive for applying good practices to manage innovation. The art of innovation is that it involves new ways of bringing together ideas and resources to create something novel. The science of innovation is to manage innovation lifecycle and executes it in a systematic manner that provides sustained competitive advantage. Most, importantly, IT has to walk to talk, be open to diverse opinions and feedback, be humble to listen to customers, be confident to take the path perhaps no one ever takes before, and be resilient to failure forward.

How do you prioritize the need or desire to innovate? Organizations always have some resource limitations. The resource needs to be assigned scientifically, to make sure that your company has a steady flow of fresh ideas floating in your innovation pipeline, and you need a methodological platform that allows you to do that in an efficient way. A disciplined innovation approach with right priority setting focuses on commercially relevant compounds innovation management which are driven by clear strategic goals, risk management, and integral and interdisciplinary process management. Prioritization also forces people to be more creative, creating internal competition among new ideas and to come up with better ideas. It is situation driven, good for certain organizations and for the specific situations and challenges that are faced and that actually requires different priorities as compared to others. IT organization with high-maturity not only adapts to the changes but plays a pivotal role in setting the right priority and driving the digital transformation of their company proactively.

How do you socialize those prioritized needs with the rest of the company executives? The strategic conversation between CIO and other C levels focuses on both top-line business growth and innovation, as well as bottom line business efficiency. Cross-functional communication is crucial to run highly innovative IT organization. Innovation management requires much deeper whole systems and taking emergent, generative, iterative, integrative, and holistic approaches. The senior executive team’s concerns are customer retention, recurring revenues, new customer acquisition, talent development and profitable bottom line growth. Smart CIOs should talk about the strategic use of technology to meet these concerns. Sometimes when one business area has a new product that can be used by another, IT leaders can connect the wider dots to come up with new innovative solutions and scale up innovation effect at the entire organization scope. Communication is key, to build innovation management competency for IT organization, the difficult challenge is not just launching successful teams, but maintaining the motivation and focus of the people.

How can you measure IT innovation performance: Innovating in today’s digital world has become increasingly complex in nature. The measures should be oriented to justify innovation the organization needs. The innovation assessment is through innovation drivers, the elements that enhance an organization's innovation capacity. What value have those new things designed and implemented? You choose KPIs by deciding which are seen as critical to making progress in order to deliver more innovations. Keep in mind, metrics are not just numbers, but need to be well selected to tell the full story; because historically, performance system for most businesses have been financing driven, but financial indicators only cover part of the story. This is particularly critical for managing innovation. For example, the measurement of creativity in the workplace is through the results, the outcomes of creative thoughts and actions. Building culture of innovation means that you need to break the rules, give people time and resource for exploring, it is totally different from measuring innovation.

Innovation is all about figuring out the better way to do things and transform novel ideas to achieve the business value. Innovation is about moving forward. In any business, if you are not moving forward, you are moving backward. There is no standing still. Innovation needs to be the collective habit of the business, you have to live it and breathe it every day, otherwise, you don’t feel accomplished. Innovation management requires curious attitude to ask deep questions and scientific discipline to weave much deeper whole systems and taking emergent, generative, iterative, integrative, and holistic approaches.


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