"Innovate or die." It is not just a catchy slogan — it's the nature of business today. The good news is that technology improvements open new opportunities across the innovation network. Business users are more open than ever to enhancing their operations, products, and marketing with these new technologies and firms can exploit social networks to accelerate innovation even further. But while innovation implies improvement and gains, embracing it also implies risk. Those organisations that understand best how to exploit the changes to their business ecosystem are the ones that will lead the way through this transformative period.

Whether the CIO supports it or not, technology plays an increasingly critical role in business success. Employees and customers are more empowered every day — bringing their own devices to work, using mobile technology to get real-time updates on available products and services, and looking past the traditional IT organization for the technology and applications required to do their jobs. In Forrester’s new Innovation Playbook we define this as empowered business technology (EBT).

This shift requires a radically different organizational focus from what currently takes place. Today, a typical CIO spends roughly 60% of his or her time managing applications and infrastructure. In a world of empowered business technology, that should drop to 25%, allowing the CIO to give proper time and attention to additional responsibilities.

In fact, over the next few years, enlightened CIOs will triple the amount of time and effort currently spent acting as their organization's "chief innovation officer." They will need to act as facilitators and unifiers — bringing disruptive technologies to the business to improve and transform products and processes while also integrating business-driven innovations, many of which are technology-based, with existing back-office processes and data repositories.

Change the context of IT innovation

Driving innovation within the IT organization has always been a traditional role of the CIO. As an organization makes the shift to EDT, the requirement for IT innovation will not go away. Rather, the focus of such innovations shifts — from delivering internal efficiencies to maximizing overall business value and the impact of such innovations must be described in business terms.

For example, rather than solely considering the technical aspects of a mobile workforce, consider the ability to reshape the way that work is performed. Making each employee able to access corporate information and telecommunications resources from anywhere can allow flexible work environments, ad hoc office seating based upon collaboration needs, and new ways to acquire and provision office spaces — all leading to greater business productivity and cost savings.

In the same regard, agile development models are a way to use technology to ensure that business process changes are done as rapidly as possible and with the maximum alignment between systems and business needs. Both sides benefit to the overall good of the organization and its customers—again, business value.

Furthermore,new data streams and analysis tools create vast pools of data on your organization's place in the social networks, the way that your products are used, and a more complete picture of customer interactions. Effective management of these data sources and content allows marketers to open new opportunities and revenue streams.

Figure: CIOs Will Triple The Time Spent On Innovation


What does it mean for CIO’S?

The CIO needs to be involved in innovation initiatives and should make sure that the business has a portfolio of innovative prototypes under way that can allow IT to shift more to BT, establish guardrails to foster innovation within bounds and have the group exploring a new technology or new use for an existing technology to be able to leverage the thinking of many groups and avoid duplicative, stove piped efforts.

The pervasive march of technology into all aspects of the business is changing the nature of the CIO role. In this EBT era, CIOs must do several things:

Firstly, CIOs must work with all of the traditional customer-facing departments to ensure connections between the external networks and internal processes and decision-making authorities. Without such interconnections, the silo-ing of information will not just stifle innovation; it will open opportunities for innovative competitors to dominate your markets.

CIOs must push more operational tasks to trusted associates, freeing themselves up to devote more time to business value creation. The time spent working as the "chief innovation officer" will be more as coordinator and facilitator — driving business value through the greater use and integration of technology — than as operations and control.

The CIO's role in helping to accelerate business innovation concentrates increasingly on business issues. Technology doesn't become less important, but the sources for technology become more complex and more external. CIOs have to concentrate more of their attention on making the business successful no matter where their technology-based services are sourced.

A lot of a CIO's confusion about IT's role in business innovation will be moot when business decisions are synchronized with input from the CIO's organization. Instead of thinking that somehow IT should do research and development independent of the business organizations, the close partnership between the CIO and his or her business peers will drive innovative decisions as coordinated, technology-informed business decisions.

 About the author:

Chip Gliedman is a vice president and principal analyst serving CIO’s at Forrester Research.