Are IT leaders just too busy for innovation?

Recent CIO panel discussion highlights the challenge of moving into new areas while still trying to keep the lights on in the old.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

Chief information officers understand how important innovation is to survive and thrive in today's hyper-competitive global economy. And they understand that IT is the key to new innovation. Yet, they often are too saddled down with maintenance and upkeep to really give it their all.


That's one of the takeways of a recent CIO panel, reported on by Andi Mann of CA Technologies, tackling the matter of IT's role in corporate innovation. (Part 1 here and Part 2 here.)

Innovation is a broad topic with a lot of different angles -- and uncertain impact on the bottom line. But one thing is certain: everyone is looking to information technology to make innovation happen.

As Mann summarized it:

"CIOs and other IT leaders today must make a transition from performing tactical duties that simply maintain the status quo to adopting new technologies to enable innovative approaches that customers – internal and external – will embrace. This will keep IT relevant, boost CIOs profile with the business and reduce the risk of end users bypassing the IT department to get new technologies, creating security and other risks most businesses can’t take."

Another important thread in the discussion was the consumerization of IT -- not just end users bringing in devices, but also end user expectations that their IT at work should be just as responsive and easy to use as the technologies they use at home.

Ken Piddington, Chief Information Officer for Global Partners, LP, made the point that IT leaders need to accomodate consumer IT, rather than fight it. "You’ve got to either find ways to do that or they’re going to go outside and that’s when you have the security risk.” At the same time, IT managers need to strike a balance with the back-end legacy systems that still power many company operations.

Piddington acknowledges that IT managers have a lot of their plates, and makes it a point to help them set aside time to try new things. “We try to foster innovation through actual resource planning and budgets, getting people time to get away from running the business tasks and focusing on playtime, if you will, to sit and experiment with new technologies, learn how to use existing technologies better, and finding ways to create more innovative solutions for our customers."
CIOs are also well aware of the growing trend for more IT spending to be occuring outside of the IT department budget. For IT managers, the key os to focus, focus, focus, as expressed by Chris Garibaldi, principal with Deloitte Consulting. "Do a few things well as opposed to try and do everything poorly."

(Photo: Wikipedia.)


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