Step Up, No Excuses
One thing thriving CIOs have in common is that they continually strive to make the IT group indispensable in diverse areas of the business.
Don't wait to be asked into the business fray, Carmody says. Prove IT's worth by stepping into critical situations. Jacobs acquires a lot of companies, and Carmody has carved out a specialty for her IT group in those situations. When Jacobs recently submitted an offer to buy construction consulting company Sinclair Knight Merz for $1.2 billion, Carmody appointed one of her vice presidents to the due diligence team before the deal and another to lead the integration after.
At Kroger, Hjelm has set up a research-and-development group within IT that invents new technologies and new ways to apply established ones. This R&D team is behind one of the grocery industry's most visible customer innovations in years: Kroger's QueVision system, which uses analytics to predict the shopping rhythms of customers and then suggests how to staff checkout lanes to cut wait times. An infrared camera counts people coming into the store. Based on time of day and day of the week, a proprietary algorithm predicts how long each person will shop. A digital display at the front of the store shows how many checkout lanes are currently open and how many will be open in 30 minutes. The system has reduced the time between when a shopper steps into a line and when the check-out process starts from four minutes to 30 seconds.
"We are pushing the envelope on what's possible," Hjelm says.
Some of the most intriguing modern technologies move way beyond the IT group and encompass the whole company. For example, Gartner says a digital industrial revolution—3-D printing that will enable next-generation manufacturing—will redefine how companies compete. Crowdsourcing ideas online will become the norm in engineering, advertising, product development and other departments. These aren't discrete projects with defined borders; they are new ways for companies to operate.
The elevation of IT's importance will force CIOs to change the operating model of the IT group. That includes more outsourcing and more internal "islands of specialization," according to a recent study by A.T. Kearney. The consulting company predicts we'll see more nimble, autonomous teams of IT experts in fields such as mobility or customer experience starting to collaborate closely with business groups to move fast on new ideas.
Kroger has a team dedicated to mobile computing. "Iterative development requires a closer relationship between business and IT professionals," Hjelm says. That's especially true when you are tweaking your mobile app every six weeks. Next up: using grocery lists and store maps to help shoppers navigate the store as efficiently as possible.
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