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December 6, 2012

The CIO Mandate: Innovate

Posted by Chandra Shekar Kakal (View Profile | View All Posts) at 4:30 AM

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There isn't a CIO who'd argue the point when I say it's no longer enough to ensure or even increase operating efficiency. We must all reinvent our businesses to keep pace with the hyper-evolution around us. Consumer consumption patterns are changing. Formidable new competitors are springing from almost nowhere. And technology, of course, goes obsolete even before one has it fully figured. It's no surprise, then, that CIOs - like all business leaders - are called upon to think fast...about how to dull the brunt of rapid change that can otherwise render their enterprise impotent. And as catalysts for change, they enable practically everything from new products and new revenue streams to new market exploration and new business model creation.

And no surprise there, because CIOs are in a distinctive position within the organization. They produce and hence have access to a goldmine of sorts. They are closest to data. Data that indicates customer preference, supply chain patterns, products that work, products that don't, usage patterns and all that information that other leaders could kill to have. Combining this input with analytics and market information is a natural...almost inevitable...first step towards product innovations, process changes and business transformation. 

So, what does the CIO, with innovation on his mind, really seek? For starters, he wants IT that's smarter and business relevant. Be it any part of the so-called commoditized IT value chain - with application support and maintenance, infrastructure operations, and such like - his search for ways and means to future-proof IT for the business is relentless. 

He is also taking a hard look between the crevices that divide IT services to see if he can find a way to unearth additional value there. 

I'd say, one other thing he'd appreciate, as ideas flash, is agility in execution.  Agile development - speedy build and enhancement of application - as a methodology is not something CIOs are unfamiliar with. This has, over the years, translated into faster time-to-market, smoother process reengineering, prototyping on demand and frequent releases of new features and business models to business from IT. It has really helped IT get closer to business. But, here's the catch; agile development, typically, is a non-distributed environment process. And this means passing up the benefits of outsourcing from low-cost locations. Service partners who offer the 'Global Agile' advantage - agile development, but with a window for 40%-70% offshoring - promise CIOs the best of both worlds.

Further,  with the growing ubiquity of smart phones and iPADs, everyone demands great user experience and just good old GUI simply won't do.  Enhancing  the user experience for existing applications or even newly built ones is another challenge for the CIO. While he can make sense of all things tech, the technology organization rarely has access to in-house talent from product design and architecture schools. So, it has ceased to surprise me, when clients pop in a question asking if we nurture a User Experience Center of Excellence. 

Of course, I see clear relief when I nod my affirmative.

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