Innovation: how does your CIO measure up?

For chief information officers (CIOs), we believe there is now a golden opportunity. No other senior executive is closer to the information being gathered by the business, or able to deploy rapidly improving tools to find valuable new uses for the surging volumes of data being collected. But findings from a major new study we’ve conducted, The DNA of the CIO, show that a worrying number of CIOs are failing to step up to the innovation challenge.* Click here for further information about the survey on which this article is based.

This is not only harming the competitiveness of these businesses, but also the career prospects of CIOs themselves.

About 6 in 10 CIOs felt they strongly added value to the company by enabling fact-based decision-making, while just over one in three of their C-suite peers agreed.

Thanks to the ongoing consumerization of IT, led by the growing pervasiveness of smart mobile devices, users’ expectations of technology and the CIO are rapidly increasing. This is a challenge for IT leaders.

It is also clear that the perception of the CIO by the rest of the business still has much scope for improvement. A checkered history of high-profile, IT-led cost overruns and failures has left poor perceptions that still linger at the boardroom table.

Even in those relationships where the CIO does have a stronger connection, such as with the CEO, our experience has shown that innovation all too often fails to feature as a key focus of the discussion. This, in turn, is a contributing factor to why relatively few CIOs actually have a seat at the top management table today.

A broader consideration relates to the CIO’s ability to match their knowledge of what technology can do with an intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the rest of the business. The challenge we see in many of the businesses with which we’re involved is that the IT function works in isolation from other operating units and departments. This disconnect makes it difficult to be at the forefront of driving innovation when there’s a lack of deeper insight into what makes the rest of the company tick.

For many CIOs, this is a major challenge to overcome, especially for those who’ve never spent time outside of the IT function, as is often the case. In response to this, many of the leading CIOs we talked to recommend establishing an innovation management process. By doing so, IT can proactively invite the rest of the business to submit ideas of any kind. These are then filtered down to the most viable concepts, before becoming live projects.

All this has helped ensure that the CIO remains front and center of the innovation process, rather than merely a backroom technician and help desk. Embedding such processes is not necessarily easy, but for CIOs needing to shift their perception within the business, such a change will be crucial. Getting this right is not just important for the improved performance of the business; we believe it is also key for any CIO seeking a chair at the top executive team table.

* The DNA of the CIO, Ernst & Young, October 2012. The report is based on a survey of 301 CIOs. It also draws on in-depth interviews with a further 25 CIOs and 40 respondents from across the rest of the C-suite.

The complete article was written by:

  • Paolo Cavosi
    EMEIA IT Advisory Leader, Ernst & Young, Italy
  • Michel Savoie
    EMEIA IT Transformation Leader, Ernst & Young, UK

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