For today’s CIO,  business transformation isn’t as much a project as an ongoing process, where success isn’t a question of meeting goals at a fixed point, but of enabling a state of perpetual innovation that drives real business value. Enabling and maintaining this state isn’t easy. In fact, it’s a task that asks CIOs to bring all their technological and leadership abilities to bear.

It starts with realising this is less a question of technology than one of organisation. In the words of Adam Evans, Professional Services Leader, EMEA for Rackspace, it’s about ‘creating the ideas of a learning organisation.’ For Evans, this means embedding learning within IT and within the wider organisation, while creating ‘an organisation that desires to understand what’s out there and what's happening.’ An organisation not afraid to make mistakes. It’s an idea picked up by CIO.com contributor Snehal Antani, who argues that transformation involves creating ‘a culture of continuous improvement’ which ‘empowers product managers to quickly identify and deliver new features, and to quickly pivot or iterate based on both the voice and behaviour of the customers.’

Continuous improvement also requires a different mindset, where the start/stop cadence of IT roadmaps gives way to something more iterative. Evans advises ‘thinking about how you structure delivery and thinking about it more in terms of programs rather than the traditional project after project kind of roadmap.’ Where IT leaders let the people and processes lead, rather than the technology, they create teams that can build and maintain a transformative momentum. Applying the philosophy of agile SW development across the whole business.

Part of this is fighting fear of failure, making sure that those within the organisation feel empowered to take risks rather than threatened by them. Deloitte has identified the top leadership attributes needed to drive business transformation as an experimentation mindset, a risk-taking attitude and the willingness to speak out. CIOs need to find and promote these qualities within their teams – and within themselves.

Evans suggests taking this . ‘There is a lot to finding a compass point and making lots of small incremental changes towards that’ he explains. Build things that work and add tangible value to the business, and you build both confidence and credibility, creating a momentum that can drive future projects.

Accelerating change

CIOs don’t need to do this on their own. While there will always be inhibitors within any company, there will also be teams and workers who want to make a difference and who have the skills and traits to do so. Education and enablement will help organisations realise the impact of technology and allow game-changing ideas to bubble up. And as Deloitte’s report makes clear, CIOs can help form business ecosystems where innovation thrives, by working closely with partner vendors and other sources of talent and expertise. As Evans says, ‘As a business, it’s going to be very, very difficult to understand all you need to know about an emerging technology early enough within a program or project lifecycle to really be able to run fast, so partners are really going to accelerate you in that space.’

These are all distinct requirements, but at heart they all require, above all else, a CIO with the right team and the right leadership skills, with the technological know-how to see what’s possible, the ability to move ideas across the business and the curiosity to try new things. In the innovative, learning organisations of tomorrow, the CIO must walk the walk, always leading from the front.

Click here to learn more about how Rackspace can help you drive innovation throughout your organisation.