Chief information officers are driving innovation through the recession, according to Forrester.

IT departments were well aware that their businesses needed to be “in shape” ahead of any upturn, says Bobby Cameron, principal analyst at Forrester.

Many businesses were “not afraid” of coming up with new ideas, because ideas did not have to be “high risk” to deliver major benefits, he said, speaking ahead of the Forrester IT Forum being held in Berlin next month.

“I have found consistently that many CIOs are increasing the proportion of capital spend that goes on innovation, even if budgets are decreasing,” he said. “People are looking for ways to be creative.”

The most common areas of innovation included improving agility and business processes, and even working on supplier relationships in order to allow for more flexible pricing.

In order to be successful in sustained innovation, businesses needed to first ensure they had a dedicated budget for introducing new ways of working, he said.

Then they needed to set up a steering committee specifically focused on the task. “And this committee should be senior but not comprise those devising the budgets,” he said. “This is about ideas.”

The committee should take ideas from across the business, many of which could be collected through setting up discussion forums or web pages within the company’s intranet.

Around two thirds of large companies organise innovation in this way, he estimated. But there remained firms that were unnecessarily cautious on innovation, risking being left behind.

“If you tap a person on the shoulder and say ‘What is innovation?’, they tend to think of game-changing ideas. It doesn’t have to be,” he said. “Innovation can be as simple as finely adjusting processes or slightly modifying a project.”