Monday, October 29, 2018

The Contemporary CIO’s Digital Innovation Agenda

The fast-paced change forces IT leaders to be proactive and get really creative about how they orchestrate and implement changes and drive digital transformation.

Digital is the age of innovation. Innovation, in general, is surely a management discipline. IT shouldn’t act as a controller only, limit the business’s creativity. To keep relevant, IT has to shift its reputation from a cost center to the innovation hub of the organization. In fact, IT plays a crucial role in expanding the creative side of the business, and scale the innovation effect of the organization. The contemporary CIO's responsibilities are to understand the business's collaboration needs and innovation demand today and into the future, in order to build an IT-led digital innovation agenda which covers innovation management, knowledge, technology transfer, entrepreneurship, people-centricity, and it is closely related to several other disciplines as well.

Develop digital IT as an innovation hub: Technology is often the disruptive force behind innovation and information is the gold mine all forward-looking organizations dig into. Thus, IT plays a crucial role in creating a disciplined and managed space for developing and testing new models, products, and business approaches, but also shield innovation teams from the organization’s dominant logic and established standard operating procedures, to strike the right balance of innovation and process. CIOs play the bridge role of integrating the art and science of digital innovation. Being able to become innovative or close is being able to think, and create new things based on the business or the customer’s needs. CIOs need to be creative enough to think out-of-the-box for embracing great ideas; and logical enough to plan, engineer and follow through. IT has a great opportunity here to catalyze innovation and lead the digital transformation of the business.

Build IT as the backbone of a learning organization: Knowledge is the foundation of innovation. IT needs to become a learning organization which can also build learning capability for the entire company. CIOs need to ask themselves and others: Does IT drive team building and organizational learning? Do you want to be in a constant learning mode? With fast-growing information and shortened knowledge life cycle, the important responsibility of managing information and knowledge is about how to work in harmony for amplifying collective skills and abilities. Organizations are at a crossroads where the segregation or silo of business units are at a need to reach across the aisles and respectively work with each other, learn from each other, co-develop innovation, and work toward the common goals to achieve the high-performance business results. IT is the backbone for building a learning organization, running an innovative IT organization is about setting a cultural adjustment and understanding within the organization that innovation is embraced and expected, including the acceptance of failure along the path to innovation and ensure the culture supports innovative efforts, recognizes and encourages innovators to think different and take bold actions.

Leverage IT to foster a creative environment and fine-tune the organization’s “personality”: Creativity in the "corporate" world has a lot to do with fostering a creative environment. You have to live it and breathe it every day, otherwise, you would feel stuck. Organizations, just like individuals, have different personalities. Is your company a “thinking deep” introvert or the go-doer extrovert? Do you have a listening or telling organization? Is your team-setting homogeneous or heterogeneous? Inclusive or exclusive? Etc. Because IT oversees business processes and manages the information life cycle, so it directly impacts how the business “think and do things” there. IT has the very power to influence an organization’s “personality,” and unleash the digital potential of the business. There is no innovation without inclusiveness. Because creativity is a combination of divergent and convergent thinking. It’s best to bring a group of people together with cognitive differences such as different backgrounds, capabilities, strengths etc., in order to spark creativity. To harness innovation, it’s important for a creative team having people who do not have the same viewpoint of varying issues so that they can complement with each other’s viewpoint, broaden the points of interest and try new things to extend the thinking box and increasing the odds of sparkling creativity. The business leaders such as CIOs must work with the right mindset to create an inclusive organization with every dip in the business lifecycle to foster a creative environment and improve innovation effectiveness.

Take outside-in lens to run a people-centric organization: Innovation often happens at the intersection of people and technology. Thus, customers become an important link in the innovation process. IT has two sets of customers - the internal business customers as well as the end customers of the companies. Building a customer-centric business is in every forward-thinking organization’s top executive agenda. The new technology tools and business models allow a company to capture customer information on a continual basis. IT needs to be closer to the end customers and do more with innovation. To become truly people-centric and highly innovative, 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 fail forward. Retention of customers/reduction in the churn with better management of services provided to the customers will be an indirect way of increasing and maintaining the revenue. Innovation is change; from Change Management perspective, CIOs need to be like the anthropologist and psychologist, who can diagnose the problems from the mindset level, understand the variety of thoughts behind the changes, and build a people-centric change organization.

Practice IT intrapreneurship and run IT as a software startup: Today IT is the wing of every successful business. IT entrepreneurialism becomes a new fixture for management in their efforts to spark creativity, substantiate competitive position, affect the market landscape, and drive new revenue growth. The key here is to run IT with the software startup mentality and gradually institutionalize and communicate innovation throughout the organization. Practicing IT intrapreneurship means to harness changes, cultivate innovative cultures, and learn to generate more novel ideas in diverse teams. Practicing intrapreneurship in a large organization also doesn't mean getting rid of all rules. Instead, a high-innovative business has more discipline, not less. As a matter of fact, it’s important to set digital principles and develop an effective framework to manage innovation in a structural way. To run an innovative IT organization, the most difficult challenge is not just about launching successful teams, but about maintaining their motivation and focus, cultivating the positive attitude and building a culture of risk tolerance and doing more with innovation.

Digital is the age of innovation, digital innovation has expanded spectrum and broader perspective. It is the age of options, it provides the opportunity to think the new way to do things. Any leadership role, especially a CIO, needs to be better-rounded than to have a title of "logical" or "creative." They should be good at both and dedicated to developing a comprehensive innovation agenda. The fast-paced change forces IT leaders to be proactive and get really creative in how they orchestrate and implement changes, cultivate a set of digital habits, practice, practice, and practice more for running a high-innovative digital IT organization.


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