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Golden age of innovation

Daniel Burrus (via Harvard Business School Publishing Corp/ AFR) | Aug. 14, 2013
Chief information officers should have their finger on the pulse of technological changes and innovation.

Golden age of innovation
Chief information officers should have their finger on the pulse of technological changes and innovation. Photo: Justin McManus

Enterprise information technology as we have known it is rapidly becoming obsolete, and the traditional role of the chief information officer is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

Just as game-changing technologies continue to transform business processes, they also allow us to create new products and services that wouldn't have been possible a few years ago.

Therefore, the chief information officer's role must shift from protecting the status quo to embracing innovation.

The old way emphasised technology-centricity; the new way emphasises technology-empowered business strategies. The old way was all about information management; the new way is all about information intelligence.

The old way was IT systems management; the new way is platforms that enable new value chains and integrated ecosystems. The old way stressed cost management; the new way prioritises driving business transformation and accelerating growth.

Today, technology-driven transformation is happening all around us.

At an international technology conference a few weeks ago, one of the demonstrations to illustrate game-changing technology involved using an iPad and a high-speed connection to fully control three workstations in different parts of the country. Using only an iPad wirelessly streaming to a large screen, thousands of people could see what the engineers were seeing and the user could control each workstation as if he were on site. This was impossible just a few months ago.

The visual, social, virtual and mobile transformations already happening are creating a new golden age of technology-enabled innovation. CIOs should be leading the charge.

So what has enabled the business environment to go from merely changing to transforming? It's all thanks to three change accelerators: the exponential advances in processing power, bandwidth and storage. Based on the technology-enabled trends that are already in place, the next five years will see transformations in how we sell, market, communicate, collaborate, innovate, train and educate. And if you don't do it, someone else will. Considering all the business processes that are being transformed by technology, nothing is undergoing more of a transformation than the role of the CIO.

The CIO's traditional role of managing information, IT systems and cost now chiefly encompasses creating new competitive advantage, new products and new services. Traditionally, the chief executive was the innovator, but many of today's CEOs - as well as the rest of the C-suite - are unaware of what is technologically possible now or what will be in the future. CIOs, however, can both access and understand that type of information, which is why they are uniquely positioned to take on the role of chief innovation officer.


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