Businesses need to bet on innovation

Friday, March 14, 2008

Leading CIOs have called on IT professionals to be more proactive in driving business improvements and winning the confidence of senior executives.
Consultancy Capgemini’s third annual global CIO survey, which was published last week, revealed that two-thirds of CIOs regard IT as playing a critical role in fostering business innovation. However, only a quarter say that IT is taking a leadership role in delivering that innovation.
Rorie Devine, chief technology officer of online gambling firm Betfair, suggested that the best way to ensure IT delivers innovation is by building it into business objectives. “We have set a target percentage of revenue that we want to derive from new products – and set up both structured and non-structured channels to deliver it,” he said.
According to Chris Robinson, IT director at construction firm Davis Langdon, it is time for IT to become the “engine room of business innovation”, adding that CIOs need to “spend the majority of their time on relationships and understanding the business.”
Alex Thomson, IT director at Travelodge, argued that he has helped the business improve conversion on its web site. “It is the role of IT to demonstrate to its business counterparts that it can add value and, in doing so, it will be invited to lead business innovation,” he said.
As IT has become the engine room of today’s enterprise, many departments end up focused on operations, said Capgemini’s executive consultant, Ivar Sinka. “But if you do that to the exclusion of all else it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he said. “There should be an element of the [business change agent] role and the [IT operator] role in CIOs, and ­ matching the balance of the two with your sector’s requirements is important.”
Alex Cullen of analyst firm Forrester argued that many CIOs do not receive the necessary executive support to ensure that innovation is prioritised. Typically, business leaders will say they want innovation in business models and processes but subsequently focus “only on product innovation”, he said. " Consequently, while CIOs say they want to be involved with innovation, it almost never makes the CIO’s top five priorities," Cullen added.
The research found that in most businesses that were classed as “top innovators”, the CIO reported directly to the chief executive or chief operating officer.

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