CEOs See IT as Innovation Driver

Ann All
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Seven Major Projects CIOs Should Consider During the Next Three Years

When I wrote about Forrester Research VP and Principal Analyst James Staten's keynote address on the industrialization of IT at the itSMF Fusion conference in Louisville, Ky., earlier this year, I mentioned he shared some results of a Forrester survey that illustrated the often-unfavorable opinions of IT held by chief marketing officers. They see IT as "the department of no," said Staten, and "it's hard to shed that label."


Do other business executives share CMOs' low opinion of IT? In the case of CEOs, it would appear not, at least judging from new Harris Interactive research that shows CEOs think highly of the IT function's capability to drive innovation.


According to the survey, which was conducted on behalf of the Olympus Corporation of America, 44 percent of CEOs surveyed view the IT department as the leading innovator in the organization during the past 10 years. Also, 63 percent expect the IT department to drive the highest level of innovation over the next two years.


This is especially important in light of the fact that 95 percent of survey respondents consider enterprise innovation extremely important to the future growth of their companies.


These results remind me of a Gartner survey I wrote about last December, in which 62 percent of CEOs said IT would be a "key element" of their companies' post-recession recovery plans. As I wrote then, I worry that some CEOs see technology as the answer to all their business problems. If IT can't live up to those over-inflated expectations, CEOs' opinions of IT will almost certainly suffer.


No pressure, CIOs.


Maybe there's an opportunity for IT in the fact that more than half of respondents said their companies had no teams, processes or systems for fostering enterprise innovation. IT will be a hero if it can help create an innovation-friendly environment.


For some ideas on where to start, check out IT Business Edge colleague Susan Hall's post on the differences between top-performing IT organizations and their more average peers. According to an Accenture study, some of those differences are:

  • Top performers have Web-enabled 42 percent more of their customer interactions and 93 percent more of their suppliers' interactions.
  • They are 44 percent more likely to recognize the strategic role IT plays in increasing customer satisfaction.
  • They are eight times more likely to measure the benefits realized from IT initiatives.
  • They spend 29 percent more annually on developing and implementing new applications rather than on maintaining existing ones.
  • They are twice as likely to view workforce performance as a priority by addressing challenges such as an aging workforce and collaboration, as well as developing technical and soft skills (business knowledge, relationship management).


More good advice is found in Staten's keynote, which I mentioned in the first paragraph of this post. Staten's three-part advice to CIOs:

  • Employ "strategic rightsourcing" strategies.
  • "Industrialize IT" by automating as many IT services as possible.
  • Use agile methods borrowed from application developers to create a more flexible infrastructure.


It's all about the ability to recognize what is important to the business and giving it to them by automating routine processes and creating an infrastructure that can quickly deliver new capabilities.

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