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CIOs target innovation but gaining their colleagues’ trust is key

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Recent research from CIO Insight and IDG that looked at the CIO’s pivotal role in UK firms’ innovation plans found that 2016 is likely to be a good year for the department with an expectation of growing budgets. The report also found that IT directors will focus on business innovation and change as a way to drive revenue growth, but they know that keeping their technology-led initiatives fully in sync with the wider business operations is going to be tough.

What also leapt out of the IDG research was the age-old problem for the CIO and his/her team.

In their own organisation, the IT department is still perceived mainly as the improver or the optimiser of what’s already there. As a result, the IT team struggles to be taken seriously as the creators of something new – or even radical – for their business or public organisation. They have yet to become the orchestrators of their business’s transformation.

IDG’s work chimes with our own research that examined 200 UK organisations’ different paths to innovation - using the cloud.  

Whether dynamic private firms needing agile ‘scale-up, scale down’ IT resources, or public organisations that must guarantee UK data sovereignty, or adjust to ever-declining funding, the cloud offers strong and pragmatic innovation choices to CIOs and their senior colleagues.

We found that instead of UK organisations being categorised as cloud innovators or non-adopters, the picture of ‘UK plc’s ability to innovate is much more nuanced. We identified five categories of cloud users, ranging from slower-paced ‘evolutionaries’ to more radical ‘progressives’.

The progressives in particular are willing to use a range of outside cloud providers, rather than simply trust the in-house team to lead and control their innovations using such technologies. Clearly, one of the biggest factors in adopting Cloud is the IT director’s appetite for risk.

Our research also delved into the common barriers to UK organisations making serious or even transformational changes, orchestrated by their CIOs.  For example in the UK public sector, a majority (63%) of interviewees admit to altering their plans or departing from strategy during deployment (58%). When there was a big change of direction by the CIO, this was most likely to be down to cost-cuts (38%), new direction from senior managers (33%) and a change in corporate objectives (31%).

Private sector firms also experience project delays or problems when driving innovation, using the Cloud. Over a third of companies firms say they have lost strategic focus, while four out of ten admit to changing their strategy.

The reasons are varied: conflicting advice from their cloud providers is a widespread common problem – affecting four out of ten private firms.  But cost-cutting and changing business objectives (both cited by 36% of interviewees) are also common.  A telling finding is that the vast majority of private firms (96%) are worried in some way about integrating different Cloud systems – innovation is a tough task whatever business you are running.

As IDG’s work has shown, CIOs have to earn the trust from their C-level executives and senior colleagues to drive innovation.  But when it comes to deploying technologies like the cloud, that trust will only be earned by dealing with changes of tack from the board, enforced budget cuts and the need to keep expert suppliers on hand.  

CIOs can undoubtedly orchestrate change in 2016 but need to overcome some considerable barriers before and as they execute their innovation plans.

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