Driving innovation was one of the key themes for CIOs in 2015 as business and technology executives looked to develop new business models and gain a competitive advantage over their rivals. Here CIO UK looks back at a year of interviews and quotations from exclusive invite-only CIO events to round-up what IT leaders had to say about innovation. [See also: Disruptive innovation - 13 ways CIOs are tackling disruption and embracing disruptive technology]
"You look at Pingit, Barclays is an innovative organisation and we have an innovation heritage. So now it is about how can we accelerate the speed of delivery? The development and processes have to make change quickly and that helps you succeed."
Roy Aston, Barclaycard CIO
"The incentive structure we have had with the large suppliers means innovation is low and there is high risk aversion, so they the vendors are safe and stable, but there are huge missed opportunities. Because there is a constant need to adapt, we have to work that much more effectively."
Sarah Wilkinson, Home Office CTO
"We will use the outside-in and customer focus to recapture our innovation origins. This was lost a little in the industry a few years ago when other people started innovating in our core product areas.
"So now we are rediscovering that innovation DNA. Once again, if you standardise and commoditise the core, and move the focus away from the IT function into something that is closer to the customer, you force yourself to not only be more innovative, but to be more innovative in a way that's closer to the customer. In addition, our open platform focus will have the effect of making us far more accessible to fostering innovation in the future. That innovation will come from a broad ecosystem, and not from the traditional sources for a telco.
Phil Jordan, Telefonica CIO
"Most industries have, or will, be disrupted. So we have to look for new ways of doing things. We are trying to build an innovation framework to disrupt ourselves. As things become more commoditised, we have to think about where we are more important to the client.
"If innovation projects are done off the side of the desk, it just won't get done. Thinking time is so little in business today."
Kelly Olsen, NHS Property Services CIO; then Cushman & Wakefield CIO
"I have worked very hard to ensure that SMEs are at the centre of our thinking around the delivery of IT and services. We've found SMEs are fantastic at innovation and being flexible around our needs. Some of what we're doing, including in the tech space, is groundbreaking. No one else is doing it.
"We have got the culture of embracing innovation."
James Findlay, HS2 CIO
"We are building an innovation facility, featuring a bit of 'connected home' and 'connected health'. We are working with some of the smaller startups to build certain propositions that we are testing, and we are bringing customers through all of the time to get their feedback,"
Monique Shivanandan, Aviva CIO
"Formula One racing is and will always be a core area of activity for us. Racing fuels our competitive spirit, it is our crucible of innovation, it enables us to attract the world's best engineers, scientists and data analysts, and the enormous popularity of Formula One provides a unique global marketing platform. We exist to win, and nothing will ever divert McLaren Racing's focus away from that ambition."
Stuart Birrell, Heathrow CIO; then McLaren Technology Group CIO
"The operation and maintenance of the new railway has to be seamless to deliver the best possible customer experience and it's all about blending tried and trusted systems with innovative new technologies."
Andrew Turner, Crossrail IT Director
"When change comes, technology is generally the enabler. So the biggest challenge for me as an individual is how do you balance reducing revenue costs, while reducing the overheads, and retaining the capacity to help the business change? That's the backdrop – having to innovate, while being told to not take any risks. That's the dichotomy we find ourselves in. We need to innovate, but that means challenging the whole operating model."
Geoff Connell, Newham and Havering council CIO
"Our chocolate sauce is the data and our ability to mine and innovate using that data. We can now ask questions that we couldn't before."
Lance Fisher, SThree CIO
"You have to manage the back end infrastructure and the front end at the same time in order to deliver innovation for customers. I have responsonsibility in my team for the IT that supports that."
Mike Sackman, Argos CIO
"It's also about engaging the business, rather than ignoring it, and ensuring IT is supportive to enable the business, being innovative and responsive. If guided appropriately then Shadow IT and BYOD can create a lot of value for the organisation."
Lesley Sewell, Post Office CIO
"We are in 37 countries and there was innovation all over the place. Our Israeli team is amazing and has been working with a cool vendor on a trading solution that we now have been able to share across a number of countries."
David Jack, MetaPack CIO; then Hyprion Insurance CIO
"Shadow IT is encouraged in part, certainly from a business perspective, if it is innovating around tools to enhance business processes, after which IT would be engaged to facilitate vendor selection and project delivery."
Richard Norris, Reliance Mutual Head of IT and Business Change
"Technological innovation and increased understanding of how you can utilise information to improve and streamline care and services are now key weapons in the NHS armament, and their role in a future NHS transformed by current fiscal concerns will be central."
Cindy Fedell, Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Director of Informatics
"Shadow IT is inevitable; it should be seen as an opportunity to learn and drive innovation into the enterprise, and it is also providing a challenge to constantly improve what we provide the users."
Jon Cole, British Army Head of Information Services
"Financial innovation is the dominant theme at technology centres around the world. Banking is an almost entirely digital business and innovation using technology is an obvious choice.
"Whether cryptocurrencies, the likes of Bitcoin, will fail or succeed remains to be seen. But if they do take off, it is not impossible to imagine a scenario where even the central banks themselves might look at issuing digital currencies. No bank can afford to ignore what it augurs for the ongoing avalanche of digital innovations to come."
Anju Patwardan, Standard Chartered Chief Innovation Officer
"My strategic approach has been to allow any device to be utilised as I want to promote creativity and innovation and not stifle this by restricting device choice.
"Having commenced my IT career in a hands on role and worked my way through all levels of IT before reaching CIO I maintain a very active leadership style getting involved with staff at all levels. I work with integrity and conviction and encourage innovation amongst all my team members."
Steve Watt, St Andrews University CIO
"It's a tough austerity regime. That doesn't mean people are not receptive to ideas. Outsourcing is a big benefit to a public body if it has a desire to take out cost and inefficiency. When people have less money to spend, so then the onus is on us to deliver innovation as they are more receptive to that."
Darryl Salmons, former Amey CIO
Innovation emerged as one of the major themes for CIOs in 2014, fuelled by the loosening of cash constraints as organisations reported the highest level of budget growth since 2006 amid CEOs shifting their focus away from cost saving and efficiency drives.
Technology as a differentiator became a key focus as companies followed the lead of John Lewis in setting up innovation hubs to support tech as one of the main areas to gain a competitive advantage over their rivals.
"If a large number of people are incentivised to innovate it can deliver a lot of change and unfreeze the organisation.
"Innovation has to be championed from the top down. But you need a culture that supports both success and failure, and supports people putting their hands up. Innovation must be supported by the centre, but not controlled by it."
Chris Hewertson, GLH CTO
"We have to live and breathe Agile, and have geared the IT team to be able to deliver very quickly and to deal with rapidly changing demands. This is a dynamic organisation and we will make investments if it helps win business. That is the benefit of being privately held, so the decisions can be very fast, with very few people involved. If you make a good business case, you get a lot of support here."
Barry Smith, Foster and Partners Head of IT
"We embrace disruption, but what we found in the past is that when we try to pull it into our corporate structure too quickly we'd kind of kill the innovation, so we let these start-ups work and compete with us.
"Sometimes they're acquisitions but we leave them with the same culture until they reach a certain stage – where they either die or they reach a maturity where we start to integrate them.
"We are using a lot of Agile methods and open source. Developers want to work in that kind of environment and they stay once they are here."
Stephen Devlin, Macmillan Science and Education CTO
"We created the Leeds Innovation Health Hub. It brings together key practitioners from all the different health organisations, and also works with entrepreneurs to help deliver new solutions."
Dylan Roberts, Leeds City Council CIO
"We're in the middle of the Post Office's Common Digital Platform via Agile methodology; conjuring up the main conduit for all of our sub-channels."
Lesley Sewell, Post Office CIO
"Our job is to be different. The way we compete is to differentiate and the core way we do that is through our technology.
"One of the things I'm glad I did was invest in the leadership team and that has cemented Agile into the business.
"In IT, without Agile we wouldn't have been able to put Lognet in over two years – it would have been a four or five-year project."
Bill Wilkins, First Utility CIO
"In the hub, we've created a team of people that consists of creative people, user experience people, marketing people and technology people, so that we can develop this capability very, very quickly, and plug that into the company-wide supply chain and channel systems."
Mike Sackman, Argos CIO
"Being an innovator is a key part of being a CIO these days."
Paul Coby, John Lewis IT director
"I'm about people-first, empowerment and innovation.
"My job is to provide the clarity and freedom for people in the team. Empowerment is a great way of giving that trust to people."
Anna Barsby, Halfords CIO
"There's a huge opportunity in government for innovation, putting citizens at the heart, cutting costs and doing things differently.
"There's lots of cynicism around open source and the art of the possible, particularly in the CIO community who want to buy things off the shelf and are too worried about security."
John Jackson, Camden Council CIO
"Innovation is taking something with commercial value and making it. It's taking an invention or improvement and giving it sustained commercial value; but you also need to execute.
"Although innovation isn't just about making your own company better, it's about making the industry better as well."
Andrew Jordan, NBC Universal SVP International Technology and Operations
"We use Agile methods and we make sure the business is well represented in decisions. Sometimes they need help to interpret what they want, so we work up prototypes and that really works well for the organisation."
Martin Britton, Natural Resources Wales CIO
"Innovation is where the CIO really comes in. At the point of the MBO we were losing £1 million a month, so along with a series of initiatives we pioneered an integrated data and insight strategy. We learned things like, things like, the premium credit default rate in some parts of the country was very high, and the default rate in some parts of the country was very high, and the cost of chasing those defaults was adding risk to the organisation."
James Fairhurst, Hastings Insurance CIO
"I love the idea of innovating in the technology field. We are one of the biggest research labs in the UK and we register a significant number of patents each year."
Clive Selley, BT CIO