Innovation in the enterprise: How can CIOs ensure its success?

Ten years ago, mobile consisted of email, voice and SMS. Any innovation was very much behind the firewall, in a closed environment.

If new developments were needed, resources would have to be allocated and as a result, any CIO would have to be very sure of a return on the investment before innovation projects could go ahead.

Conversely, in today’s cloud-based world the CEO is now pushing the CIO for more and more innovation.

Mobile, social, search and cloud have converged to create new business models such that innovation is now the norm – and resources are now more often than not tied up in software and security, rather than consciously not released. It’s an API world, and it’s all about connectivity and innovation.

Everyone – employees and customers alike – now has access to innovation in different ways, and it’s causing major disruption in enterprise (and industry) value chains.

Mobility is the main conduit to access and experience that innovation, and it is dramatically increasing the weight of expectation on the CIO.

Power to the people

Enterprises are therefore now racing to create and deploy a consumerised, consistent user experience across all available channels – including earned (social) and owned (website or application).

In a cloud/mobile world, movement through ecosystems is very fluid and in order to sustain engagement from employees, enterprises must evolve to meet or even exceed their employees’ expectations.

It used to be that employees would imagine “what if” scenarios when envisaging how their workplace technology might advance – but now they are “why not” scenarios. And it is this mindset shift that CIOs have to keep up with.

For example, many CIOs are increasingly looking at introducing BYOD in order to help keep pace with change and expectation over innovation. After all, if mobility is the primary medium through which employees discover new ways of working, it makes sense for the business to allow the flexibility.

But while a company may want to introduce a BYOD policy, many of the applications that are currently in use by enterprises are more often than not designed to operate from the silo PC heritage of a client/server computing. They simply were not designed to operate in a systems-based collaborative, flexible information-sharing-in-real-time world.

The problem is that employees want data to influence outcomes, and expect to be able to access data when they want to – irrespective of what is ‘below the covers’. The employee has the expectation, but the enterprise cannot deliver because of legacy silos of applications that do not communicate with each other.

Similarly, enterprises may experiment with wide adoption of tablets. The promises here are of applications, people and technology all coming together collaboratively through highly functional portable devices.

There are a multitude of use cases of this. One example comes from a retail store that uses an iPod Touch to handle inventory management. Or even a flight attendant who uses a tablet to keep track of the flow of goods, what people want to eat, and general stock.

The beauty of this type of integration is that it has the ability to increase efficiencies in ways never seen before, and improve the experience companies can offer as a result.

A device that is small, inexpensive to manage, easy to use and portable is highly cost effective compared to purpose-built hardware, which costs a lot more to maintain over its lifecycle. And importantly, adoption rates are quicker and easier as the employees are already conversant with the technology.

Fulfilling the promise

During periods of introducing innovation, the main question CIOs should be asking themselves right now is: what’s our strategy? What are the end results we want to achieve? For our employees, customers and partners? And where are we really starting from – are our employees already moving in this direction or are we breaking new ground? The answer is, of course, somewhere in the middle for most firms.

Objectives and goals for enterprise IT could be extremely far ranging, but this is irrespective of what people are doing on a daily basis.

The value of this part of the business model will come from figuring out what a company wants its employees to achieve, using the technology that enables their role.

Any use-case discussion should thus be orientated towards end results. A smart CIO will be asking: what’s our strategy to do that, can we sustain scalability, and how will this be managed, measured and modified as we learn?

>See also: Revenge of the CIO: the new chief enabler

Strategy should be designed to optimise spend on technology and people resources. It should also be designed with the flexibility to integrate new technology into the solution portfolio in the future on an opex basis where and when needed.

The increased appetite (or necessity) for innovation rollouts means that companies are going to be creating their own ecosystems of engagement.

However, CIOs and IT departments need to remember that cloud and mobile often create a lack of control of how technology is used throughout the network.

Affording flexibility is certainly the route to increased productivity – the opportunity is ecosystem architect maintaining oversight as part of systems architecture design.

While the CIOs are finalising strategy, IT departments should be out of the server room, engaging with people in the company.

If the innovation is designed to support or enhance the company’s working practices, educating and consulting how this innovation can be best deployed in practice is a fundamental requirement.


Sourced from Troy Fulton, Tangoe

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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