How Can Your IT Department Be More Innovative?

Traditionally, IT isn’t seen as a source of innovation, says Thornton May, futurist, executive director and dean of the IT Leadership Academy and chairman of CIO Boot Camp at Interop in Las Vegas, a two-day training and discussion space for soon-to-be CIOs. He went on to say that most IT organizations just plain suck at innovation. But in world-class IT shops, it’s once again a source of “aha” and “ooh.”

Can your IT department become a source of innovation? Can you get the “aha’s” and “oohs?” A panel of CIOs offered up some suggestions.

Christopher R. Barber, Former Senior Vice President of Enterprise Strategy and CIO, WesCorp
Bruce Barnes, CIO Emeritus, Nationwide Financial Services
Alan S. Cullop, Chief Information Officer, Senior Vice President, The TriZetto Group
Cheryl Smith, CIO, WestJet
Dr. Robert Rennie, VP, Technology & CIO, Florida State College at Jacksonville
Moderated by: Thornton May, Futurist, Executive Director and Dean, IT Leadership Academ

Here are some of the thoughts that came up during their discussion:

  • How could IT have a good idea? All good ideas come from product development and marketing, right? Sadly, many organizations have that attitude and shoot down all innovative ideas that come from IT.
  • You have to create that operational excellence to get bandwidth. It also gives you credibility within the organization. There is an entry point to be able to drive innovation in IT.
  • You don’t have to invent the iPad, but you do have to think of inventive ways of getting the most out of the iPad.
  • The reason so many IT departments fail at innovation is because they’re so focused and overwhelmed with what they’re doing now. They don’t create the cognitive bandwidth to handle what’s coming next.
  • Innovation should be evolutionary, not revolutionary.
  • Organize for innovation, because a lean company can’t handle the 2 percent innovation success rate that other organizations operate under. Meaning 1 out of 50 innovation projects succeed. To improve your success rate, increase the diversity of your team to help you identify and solve problems.
  • Make sure what you do is contextually relevant and non-toxic.
  • Business knows what they want, but they don’t know what’s possible. It’s IT’s job to show what’s possible.
  • You earn the right to get a project funded. But your responsibility to the organization doesn’t end there. Once it’s funded you need to manage the project and give constant updates as to what’s going on.
  • While innovation is cool, as is bleeding edge technology, Cheryl Smith refuses to let bleeding edge tech run critical systems. She just can’t afford that within her organization.

Creative Commons photo attribution to beana cheese.

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