The Accenture 2015 US Innovation Survey reported that 84% of executives considered their future success to be extremely dependent on innovation, with McKinsey adding that 80% of executives view their current business models as at risk of disruption in the near future.
Imagine being the person responsible for innovation and disruption – the one who needs to ensure that business models go from potentially being disrupted to being absolute disruptors. Must be quite a stressful responsibility requiring copious amounts of energy, convincing, caffeine, fortune telling and … innovation.
Welcome to the life of a CIO – a role which has evolved from a sole focus on technology to the disruption of the entire business eco-system. Technology is no longer separate from a business – existing within the dark, dingy basement of an organisation amid creaky servers and flashing lights – but ingrained into every single process, strategy and decision within an organisation.
To ensure continuous disruption every one of those aspects should have people at its core, reflecting the need for CIO’s to drive innovation that places people at the centre of every decision by seamlessly integrating technology with business strategy.
While this might not seem as impossible as destroying six Horcruxes or running a two-minute mile, it certainly is no small feat.
During my time partnering with Financial Services conglomerate’s and selling disruptive technology roadmaps, I have come to know many CIO’s; some who enabled amazing innovations across borders, others not so much.
From the journeys I embarked on with these amazing individuals, I found the below 3 reasons to be the main culprits of CIO failure:
1. Not owning your seat at the table
The CIO role has evolved from a pure focus on IT, often viewed as a big black hole for organisations to throw money into, to that of business advisor. CIO’s need to own their seat at the table and not only talk IT – the CIO role is inherent to every single department, process and outcome of an organisation.
The most influential CIO’s I’ve met work backwards by assessing an organisation’s overall objectives, auditing existing technologies, looking at available options to fill the gaps and mapping out how technology coupled with business processes can enable the organisation to achieve and exceed its objectives.
It all comes down to numbers, and the only thing that drives ongoing profitability is people-centric innovation. Therefore, a balance between people and profitability should exist for sustainable disruption.
2. Not aligning with business priorities
Most CIO’s do not walk into organisations with a blank slate and free reign. Organisations have existing systems, processes, objectives and cultures in place that require consideration to drive change and, most importantly, buy-in from stakeholders.
Initiatives taken by a CIO should drive the overall business objectives. Data-driven insights enable CIO’s to feed innovative predictability into business processes, be it around stock control, buying cycles or customer preferences. This powerful technological capability forms part of an organisation’s overall roadmap and serves as a powerful enabler of innovation.
However, when used in isolation the impact will not reach the potential and fail to have an over-arching effect on the business’s objectives, stressing the need for CIOs to work closely with all departments and stakeholders to gain in-depth knowledge of the inputs, processes and outputs within an organisation to see where change is needed and what value can be unlocked.
3. Underestimating the importance of change management
Somewhere along the line change management went wrong and, often, has people running for the hills when the mere thought of it is mentioned. When applied and approached correctly, however, it is the most significant enabler of Digital Enablement and, ultimately, a return on investment.
At Mint Group we don’t talk about change management, we talk about Digital Enablement as that is a more accurate description of the process and the ultimate outcome – it is not about changing the way people run your organisation, but enabling them to improve their skills and to successfully apply technology and strategy in an innovative way, contributing towards the overall organisational objectives.
Digital enablement empowers people, not profit. But when applied correctly people are enabled to drive more profits, while being empowered. It’s a win-win for all.
Important to note, however, is that Digital Enablement is not a once-off approach that will halt within a few months, it is a continuous cycle of improvement, measurement and adjustments as part of the organisation’s overall transformation roadmap.
While some companies have in-house resources dedicated to undertaking enablement initiatives, my advice is to leave it to the experts whose core focus is technology transformation.
The right partner understands the challenges faced with the incoming technology, can apply learnings from previous initiatives, utilise tried-and-tested methodologies, and contain the impact that Digital Enablement may have on business productivity.
The role of a CIO is ever-evolving to keep up with the rapid pace at which technology and consumer expectations are changing. The modern CIO has a prominent place within the business, responsible for moulding and navigating an organisation’s roadmap to ensure ongoing transformation and competitiveness.
To deliver disruptive innovation CIO’s need to find strong technology partners with a vested interest in their organisations; use data as the base for all decision making; implement ongoing assessments; and, most importantly, be bold!