CIOs are generally viewed as imposing order, structure and accountability on the use of technology in business, but IT can no longer be expected to just make the most efficient use of resources and optimize workflows. CIOs are increasingly expected to participate in board-level decision-making and offer innovative — and often disruptive — strategic insights. While early-stage companies often thrive on disruptive technology and workflows, established companies often seek incremental improvement that leverages existing assets, skill-sets and processes.
As Irving Wladawsky-Berger wrote in CIO Journal, “Large, established companies cannot possibly compete with start-ups on focus and speed. Instead, the company needs to figure out how to best integrate the new disruptive innovation with its key core assets. This will make it easier to then embrace the innovation as a way of rejuvenating and transforming the company and its various products, services, processes and business models.”
CIOs are uniquely qualified to grasp a holistic view of enterprise operations, and are therefore uniquely qualified to transform business operations by disrupting traditional ways of doing business and introducing innovation aligned with corporate strategies. At a CIO 100 Conference event hosted by Lee Congdon, CIO of Red Hat, and Angelia Herin, from Harvard Business Review, 30 senior executives discussed disruption.
Most seemed ready for controlled disruption, and there was general agreement that both silos and hierarchies can often create insulated new environments that are unnecessarily resistant to new ideas or change. Congdon said that CIOs will have to evolve, but will have to ensure that IT delivers on basic capabilities while developing integrated management skills and nurturing relationships throughout the organization.
CIOs will have to place bets across high-risk/high-reward and low-risk/low-reward initiatives to discover the unexpected initiatives that will disrupt — but improve — business operations. The CIOs who will make the most impact will be those who establish a culture of experimentation that tries new ideas, acknowledges failures quickly and learns from them and evolves. But disruption means change, and change can mean job risk — do you think CIOs should seek to disrupt existing processes or play it safe and strive for incremental improvement?
Chris Carroll is a freelance technology writer with over 30 years editorial experience. See more information about his background, including samples of his work and references, at www.chriscarroll.com.
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