Innovation is a word that is possibly overused at present within business technology leadership circles. Defined as “bringing in a new idea” and to “make changes”, it is no wonder the word is peppering daily vernacular in IT teams and the boardroom.
We are living in an age where new ideas and changes are readily available, and technology is the enabler of the vast majority of innovation. The barriers to market entry have been dropped and we daily see the impact on the roads and on the web.
Driving a great deal of the innovation is collaboration between small providers and teams that are tired of old, outdated methods. This tiredness, in my experience, comes from two distinct camps. There are the young entrepreneurs, but there are also highly experienced and frustrated workers. I myself work on a farm in the Surrey Hills that is home to a series of small enterprises, not one of them is staffed by anyone under the age of 40. Yet these are all successful and highly skilled organisations in areas such as advertising, civil engineering, construction and marketing, and they are all taking chunks of market share from far larger market players.
Innovation is more than tech making things easy for small businesses and teams; it is a cultural change where innovation is embraced and it is reshaping every vertical and every community. What I have witnessed this year, working with a wide range of CIOs and technology organisations, is a fast-paced, democratic, hierarchy-free culture that does more than pick up ideas - it delivers change. Recently I saw a once-established product lose 75% of its market share to a startup.
So what does this mean for the CIO role? CIOs must be more than just the technology representatives of business organisations. For example I was involved in a hackathon earlier this year. Attending developers wanted a CTO’s work, but not the job he offered. So it is my belief that as culture change agents CIOs will become talent brokers and this will broaden their skills and extend their opportunities further.
At the Innovation Leadership Summit in London recently, CIOs shared a forum with code developers, founders of startups and small agile businesses. Unsurprisingly, all rubbed along very well and the reason for this is that whether enterprise CIO, business founder or developer, the common trait amongst all attendees was a desire to engineer and improve. That desire is the culture change today’s CIO needs to lead.
As industry heavyweight and thinker Ian Cohen said at the Summit, until this decade enterprises grew by being more efficient than rivals and by increasing sales. But now organisations will have to focus on engineering and improving the product or service they offer. Therefore the culture CIOs will have to create through talent-broking is one where developers in the latest languages, small and thought-provoking service providers as well as the major global providers are immersed in the organisation. This applies not just to the IT team but the entire business and will see co-locating with a diverse range of teams and skills, across sectors such as retail, healthcare and financial services.
Becoming a culture change agent will challenge the orthodoxies of many in business technology leadership. I know and appreciate that culture change is extremely hard, but it is an innovation of your existing role.
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