The pandemic dramatically accelerated the digital transformation efforts of almost every sector.
It consisted of everything from cloud computing to software-driven automation and artificial intelligence, compressing years’ worth of change into a matter of weeks or months. Now CEOs and investors have seen what technologists can deliver when challenged, the pace of change will now be dialed up forever. As a result of this, the CIO role has evolved from its traditional focus on serving other corporate functions to one that emphasizes broad innovation and collaboration.
These technology leaders are using data and machine intelligence to help identify new business opportunities and then co-creating products and services with their C-suite peers to take advantage of these. Here, the concept of innovation stems from the virtuous combination of ingenuity, exercise, and dynamic feedback loops. With regard to feedback loops, there are two ways to gain intelligence, that is through research and customer engagement. Even phase-shifting, an epoch-making invention comes from an iterative process. It is possible to iterate for generations and still face market stagnation and then suddenly hit a jackpot. Moments like that garner massive market support. In such an uneven process, every iteration matters, and every round of feedback, supported by research, helps the organization telescope on eventual success.
This kind of laboratory, which consists of a constant cycle of development, trial, feedback, and iteration, finds a natural place in the office of the CIO. To understand this is to arrive at the conclusion that innovative organizations have strong CIOs whose organizations act as testbeds for innovative new ideas. Here, it is useful to think of the service org aspect of IT. If IT has qualities of a service organization then internal users can be thought of as customers. They consume their own new products and solutions ideas and then offer feedback, which can come in a variety of forms. Through a service-level agreement, IT then responds to the feedback with fixes to problems. With the help of CIOs, the companies can have a built-in, vendor-customer ecosystem. While external customer feedback is important, it is unwise to overlook the fact that internal customers and constituents can provide fuel for innovation just as much as any external party can. Discounting the role of the CIO and the CIO organization in the grand process of innovation is a huge miss. This is a clarion call to CIOs to be vocal about this and to communicate the importance of their organizations in innovation.
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