Establishing a culture of innovation in the face of disruptive forces

The world of work is changing and organizations need to continually drive innovation to remain competitive. This speaks to re-imagining existing processes to achieve a higher levels of productivity or crafting a mobility strategy to enable people to work more efficiently and effectively.

This was one of the topics at a CIO boardroom discussion that I participated in last week in Vancouver. CIOs and senior IT leaders gathered to explore ideas around establishing a culture of innovation along with the disruptions and opportunities facing their organizations.

Yes, this is top of mind for CIOs today. Why? With so many industries being disrupted by non-traditional competitors, CEOs are looking to IT leaders for ensuring their organizations don’t fall behind. It’s actually an important topic because when an organization is having to navigate through an economic rough patch the focus, for many organizations, tends to be singularly focused on cost cutting with little thought to driving innovation to be competitive. Forward-thinking leaders know that it takes a clear head to keep driving innovation otherwise the situation can only worsen and put your organization years behind the competition when market conditions start to improve. By not focusing on innovation, you put your entire organization at risk for becoming the proverbial dinosaur.

For this group of CIOs gathering, agreement was reached that it is not solely the business leaders that have the responsibility to drive innovation – particularly in the digital era. Which led to the next topic of discussion which was responding to the question of, “Do you care about being a so called ‘Digital Enterprise’?”

I was expecting the response from the seasoned IT leaders to be in the vein that it is just the analyst term of the day. What I heard was that many have come to the conclusion that they are indeed digitally focused. The challenge then becomes to identify what processes today within the organization are not digital. One of the best ways to put context to idea generation is to ask your team this: “What are those digital moments in the day in the life of your workforce that can be improved if the existing workflow process was digitized?”

The rationale is that the only way to improve productivity is to identify unproductive moments. Without the identification process being completed, the use cases won’t materialize to take action with a business justification.

Looking at it from the “digital moment” perspective naturally moves the discussion to improving collaboration among team members and external parties as research suggests that higher levels of collaboration among teams directly correlates to improved business results. The key message here is that legacy technology may have gotten your organization where it is today, but most likely won’t get your organization where it needs to be in the future. As Darwin said, “It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.”

Both external forces and new ways of working in a mobile-first world are shifting how your end users look for solutions that meet their demands of access to information anytime, anywhere in order to be more productive. Which leads to the conundrum for CIOs on how to they keep up with technology advancement.

For many CIOs, selecting vendors that are considered foundational platforms to enable the interoperability of on-premise systems and modern cloud-based applications is the preferred direction as this approach will allow an organization to navigate the transition over the coming years to meet the broadest set of user and business requirements. This is why it becomes imperative to understand the breadth and depth of a vendor’s partnership ecosystem. Look for vendors that have extensive partnerships along with a rich developer ecosystem as this is a common leading indicator of the best next generation platform players.

When you establish and encourage a culture of innovation you will require that the underlying technology foundation is in place to enable that innovative thinking to occur. Be mindful of both when creating your strategy.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Brian Clendenin
Brian Clendenin
"We are at one of the most exciting moments in history when it comes to innovation in IT driving innovation in business." Widely recognized as a powerful speaker intertwining storytelling and expertise, Clendenin writes and speaks on the topics of leadership, cloud, infrastructure, monitoring & analytics, DevOps, AI, machine learning, security, mobility, IT strategy, and digital transformation. Invests his time interviewing engaging thought leaders. (Connect with Brian Clendenin on LinkedIn)

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