In today's economic environment, enterprises have learned that innovation, though risky, is one of the surest paths to growth. Innovation is a learning process by which organizations discover and implement new ways to use their existing technology. By innovating, enterprises can operate more efficiently and better align their IT and business goals.
CIOs and other top IT executives play a vital role in creating enterprise innovation programs that deliver both short- and long-term benefits. Over time, as innovation becomes “business as usual," it's necessary to refresh and revitalize the innovation process, and be prepared to deal with the organizational obstacles that accompany it.
This guide is part of SearchCIO.com’s CIO Briefings series, which is designed to give IT leaders strategic management and decision-making advice on timely topics.
Table of contents:
The role of the CIO in enterprise innovation
As part of our CIO Innovators series, SearchCIO.com checked in with Peter Breunig, general manager of technology and architecture at Chevron Corp., for his latest thinking on the IT leader's role in innovation.
SearchCIO.com: What is the IT leader's role in innovation?
Breunig: The first thing we did was separate the technology and architecture -- my group, if you will -- from strategy, planning and budgeting. By doing that, we ended up with a sizeable group of people who focus on emerging technologies, be they in the application, data or infrastructure space.
From an IT leadership point of view, that was important because it let the IT population know that there is a path for the technical expert. So, if you come up through the infrastructure group and you are working on servers and you aspire to become a technical expert rather than go the management track, there is a path.
Enterprise innovation management and strategy videos for CIOs
Enterprise innovation touches all areas of IT and the business
An IT innovation strategy is interpreted and developed based on industry sector, customer needs and business goals, so innovation strategies differ from organization to organization. Interviews with CIOs, however, show that innovative IT organizations share certain traits. In this FAQ, IT executives outline the drivers behind their IT innovation strategies, and talk about what it takes to develop an effective and sustainable approach to continuous innovation.
One important component of an IT innovation strategy is creating a culture of innovation. In many cases, that starts with removing impediments to the creative process. These blockades can be found anywhere in the organization, from corporate management down to the technology used to share ideas.
This FAQ delves into the various paths IT executives have taken to remove impediments and foster IT innovation. It touches on how an IT innovation strategy can be introduced and thrive, and how to resolve short- and long-term business challenges. The FAQ also reveals how IT innovation creates business value and leads to business transformation.
Learn more in “FAQ: Four criteria for an effective IT innovation strategy.”
Keeping enterprise innovation a vital function in the organization
IT innovation is a great idea, but how does one get from here to there? CIOs say it has more to do with information than technology, at least in the beginning. Information is not only key to designing better products, but it also results in better business processes. What's required is that departmental, line-of-business and IT teams work together.
Creating a culture of innovation begins with bringing these different groups to the table to document processes and discover where they overlap or could make use of shared efficiencies. The trend is toward lean operations, which are made possible by a shared consciousness of how best to get there. Lean principles even dictate that representatives of the various organizational limbs meet in the same room.
Learn more in “A culture of innovation begins with line-of-business and IT teamwork.”
Dealing with institutional obstacles to enterprise innovation
The I in IT is getting a lot more respect among CIOs who realize that their fiber optic networks aren't sending just bits and bytes, but also digital knowledge. Making sure that people get and share critical information leads to fresh perspectives about business processes, new ways to satisfy customers and IT innovations that advance business goals.
But whether IT stands for information technology or innovative teamwork, what's missing is the letter P: People are the engine for IT innovation. The first rule of thumb, according to CIOs, is to open the thought process and welcome representatives from across the enterprise. Doing so has two benefits: It takes IT off the hook for having to come up with all the answers, and it broadens the CIO's vision of -- and for -- the company.
Learn more in “IT innovation requires managing the rogue as well as the entrenched.”
Quiz: Building enterprise innovation one step at a time
Every CIO knows there’s business value behind building innovation in IT -- but it's the successful CIO who knows just how to engage the creativity and idea generation needed for true groundbreaking efforts. Our experts have primed you with lessons from the battlefield on how to embrace innovation, and ways that we can inadvertently kill our best efforts. We've illustrated several real-life examples of IT innovation in practice, from the huge initiatives to the small, quiet changes that make a difference on the bottom line. When it comes down to it, sometimes it's the smallest tweaks to our processes that reap the biggest rewards.
Are you ready to take our IT innovation challenge? We've gathered some finer points from our series on IT innovation and compiled a quick and fast quiz to determine what you've learned from your fellow CIO innovators. Take two minutes and test yourself!