In the course of researching the 2014 book Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation, Westerman and his co-authors surveyed more than 400 major companies worldwide; only 20% of those, he estimates, had established the kind of innovation teams currently being deployed by Computerworld's top IT leaders.
Here's how several Premier 100 IT Leaders are structuring their departments to proactively identify business needs and quickly deliver innovative products with stellar results.
IT in every business function
As befits a company that makes its money selling vacations, customer experience is the yardstick by which every innovation rolled out by Royal Caribbean Cruises CIO Bill Martin and his staff of 540 IT employees is measured.
That covers everything from delivering high-speed satellite Wi-Fi that allows guests to use social media and stream movies while they're hundreds of miles out in the open ocean to using tablet technology to simplify required processes like signing waivers and mustering at lifeboats so cruise passengers can get back faster to the fun.
In an industry where more is always better — the company's newest ship, Quantum of the Seas, is almost as long as the Empire State Building is tall, has 2,100 guest rooms, and offers onboard amusements like ice skating, surfing and simulated sky diving — Martin's job is to figure out which big ideas to pursue in what order.
"There is no lack of innovative ideas when it comes to our business," says Martin. "Whether they come from our new building design team, our marketing team, our hotel operations team or our IT team, the challenge that we have is [identifying] which ideas will have the biggest impact to our bottom line and then executing on them."
Martin keeps ahead of that process with global business solutions (GBS) teams that are integrated into every business function. "They live and breathe with their organizations, completely understanding everything they do," he says of the 100 or so business analysts, change managers and project managers who are assigned to GBS teams and report to Santiago Abraham, vice president of global solutions. "Then we marry that expertise with engineers who understand what technology we need to make their ideas a reality."
Some of those realities now being showcased on the Quantum of the Seas and its sister ship, Anthem of the Seas, include a robotic bartender that can make a drink per minute from an array of 30 liquors and "virtual balconies" that enhance windowless, interior-facing staterooms with high-definition virtual images, complete with sound, of the ocean outside.
And then there's the affordable, high-speed Internet, which Martin says is "easily the most innovative IT project we delivered in 2014." The service not only enhances customer experience, but also aligns with Royal Caribbean's business priority to drive an entirely new level of marketing via IT innovation. With access to shore-like levels of connectivity, guests can use their own phones to access their favorite social media apps — Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, whatever. And that, says Martin, amounts to "tens of thousands of happy guests sharing their experiences in real time around the world."
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.