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CIO extols the importance of incubation team in company innovation

Striking a proper balance between driving operational efficiency and innovation has been a challenge for CIOs in today's digital economy, especially when IT budgets are lacking. At the recent CDM Media CIO Summit in Boston, SearchCIO editors sat down with Matt Griffiths, vice president and CIO at Stanley Black & Decker Industrial, to discuss how he handles the efficiency vs. innovation conundrum. Griffiths suggests CIOs start by finding ways to streamline operational efficiency and create what he calls an "incubation team," a diverse group that can innovate and experiment without being bound by typical business constraints.

How do CIOs achieve a balance between driving operational efficiency and innovation?

Matt Griffiths: The first thing you have to do is drive operational excellence and operational efficiency to the point where you are reducing the amount of money you're spending on keeping-the-lights-on type of operations. There are many ways that people are doing that today: Whether it's application rationalizations so that your footprint is getting smaller, whether it's automation of routine tasks and change through DevOps or ITSM, or whether it's just through a renewed focus on being more efficient in the way that those activities are supported.

You need to isolate that incubation team from the way you've done things in the past in order to invent the way you're going to do things in the future.
Matt Griffithsvice president and CIO, Stanley Black & Decker Industrial

You need to do that because budgets typically don't increase significantly -- they are typically getting smaller -- and, therefore, the available dollars to invest in innovation is typically based on how much money you can save without [investing in innovation] as well. You do have to free up resources initially.

Then it's about creating, from my perspective, incubation teams or innovation teams that aren't bound by the same constraints that exist today. It's a difficult balance to find. You've got certain architectural standards that you need to adhere to; there are certain security standards that you need to adhere to. But, for the most part, you need to isolate that incubation team from the way you've done things in the past in order to invent the way you're going to do things in the future.

The way that we've gone about doing that in Stanley is by creating a group in a different physical location, in an area that is rich in digital talent. We've hired thought leaders as well as people straight out of college and university. We have a very diverse group that is solely focused on new technology and looking for ways in which technology can shape the business.

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Do you have an incubation team at your company to help drive innovation? Why or why not?