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How CIO-enabled innovation can shape the digital business

David Quinney | Feb. 23, 2016
The CIO can be at the heart of business innovation by formalising four different roles: originator, facilitator, deliverer and navigator, writes David Quinney.

Deliverer: The delivery role will be the most comfortable for CIOs; however, as we all know in our hearts, the typical design/build/test approach usually kills innovation. Today’s CIOs must take a minimal viable product and iterative approach to explore ideas. The team makeup will also look different. Innovation requires a broader contribution from across the business, customers, third-party vendors, wider ecosystem players, and, of course, IT. Measurements of success must change from on time and on budget, to features added and discarded (i.e. learning measures) that support a “fail fast” approach. It requires a significant mental and talent management shift for many IT organizations to move in this direction, but it is a cultural change that will help innovation flourish.

Navigator: Sometimes the hardest part of innovation is recognizing that a new idea may be better suited outside of the immediate organization. For instance, if a CIO is dealing with true disruptive technology, that technology may prove to be disruptive to the business itself. The typical organizational decision-making process would typically crush such an idea because it conflicts with established decision frameworks and financial evaluation techniques. In such cases, the CIO must recognize the value of the disruptive idea, and take it to the top of the house for special consideration. Select the right people who can separate an idea from the core organization, and give it life. These are bold moves well outside the typical CIO’s comfort zone, but they are strategic business moves that ultimately develop thriving digital businesses.

CIO as digital innovator

CIOs who are able to take a leadership position in all four roles and build the capabilities to support them can place themselves at the forefront of business innovation. It’s an exciting opportunity, and one that is not for the faint of heart. But isn’t this the reason we all got involved in technology many years ago?


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