Almost all organisations realise they need to innovate. Business is too full of lessons of what happens when companies fail to understand changing markets for them to ignore it. The convergence of four major technologies: the wireless network, the revolution in battery technology, solid state data storage that resides in memory and the connected wireless GPS device, has exacerbated the speed and requirement of technological innovation.
Over the last four to five years, the chief information officer has been charged with driving innovation, primarily through the adoption and ongoing management of a variety of technologies. But today's CIO is busier than ever keeping the lights on - he's just now got a new set of problems related to mobile, social and cloud. What happened?
"The CIO as true innovator is really an illusion," says
Staying abreast of current needs
Firth says the CIO is still a vital part of any organisation that relies on technology - that is to say, almost all of them - but that his job should not be to drive innovation. With networks, hardware, operating systems, protocols, standards, core business logic, data warehouses, and all the other technology requirements to manage, the CIO's plate is full enough ensuring his company is staying abreast of current needs.
"Innovation in technology and business almost always comes from the bottom up. Communities and users improve products or have great ideas that they share with vendors - or they may use products in unexpected ways. Employees with hands-on experience can always find better ways to improve their jobs or cut costs. It is not the CIO's job to manage this often chaotic process."
Firth says another kind of CIO should be appointed: the Chief Innovation Officer.
"A 2012 report from
He says innovation officers should report directly to the CEO or the board and should have their own resources to prevent their function being sabotaged by silos, egos or hierarchies.
"The culture of an institution may be the biggest obstacle to true innovation within an enterprise. But the innovation executive needs to fight this and be looking outwards, especially at consumer and customer behaviour, even as he makes internal improvements. Enterprises are too slow, have too many layers and too many poor experiences to be sources of innovation."
"Mobile phones have taught us that employees will choose their own technology no matter what IT or management think. Cloud computing has taught us that whole divisions of a business will purchase their own resources if IT doesn't give it to them. The success of companies like Apple who know how to innovate and keep their customers happy teaches us that the days of management buying technologies and forcing employees to use it are seriously threatened. The innovation officer should be looking to customers and employees for real sources of innovation," Firth says.
"Just look at companies like Amazon, Apple,
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