Innovation Means Business Results, CIOs Say

Two hundred CIOs were asked by InformationWeek, “What are the primary ways your company plans to innovate in 2011?” More than a third (34 percent) said “introduce new IT-led products and services for customers.” While the surveyed CIOs main concern is still to reduce business costs, the survey reflects a shift in just two years when only 18 percent thought innovation was a role for IT.

Think of 2008, when the IT department would put a Blackberry in the hands of users to do whatever it was that they did. The IT department’s main priority after delivering the Blackberry was to upgrade the devices and keep the BES from crashing. If you’re still in the mindset where IT is putting out fires (another term for this I’ve heard is ‘keeping the lights on’) then you’re stuck in the old paradigm. Now, delivering the Blackberry (or Android, iPad, etc.) is only one link in a chain of responsibilities by IT.

The fact is the IT department is working much closer with the business units and it’s happening in numerous ways, such as:

Hilton hotels techs are not responsible for the day to day operations of the chain’s WiFi – even though reliable WiFi is what guests say is the most important amenity after a clean room. Hilton has outsourced WiFi services to AT&T, leaving Hilton techs free to develop products and services that can be delivered over that WiFi connection, like building an iPad app that would contact room service.

IT engineers in Bedford County, Tennessee are considering monetizing a database of genealogy records to offset the costs of putting them online. It’s valuable information that can create a revenue stream from researchers. Once the raw data is online, the real fun begins with those who can build an app to do something with it.

The CME Group’s IT is business. CME provides office space to high-frequency traders whose computerized trades recur in milliseconds, so they demand high speed bandwidth and absolute uptime. A temporary disconnect of even a split second can cost a lot of money. Team members from CME meet frequently with their customers to keep aware of their needs.

Staff shortage is among CEOs top three concerns. But after two years of frozen or shrinking budgets, the outlook is improving. Sixty-four percent of CEOs anticipate IT spending will rise in 2011, and 24 percent think it will grow by double digits. Some of that money will go to new hires, especially techs who better understand the business unit. Sure, saving money is crucial, but making money is what many CEOs are looking for.

–Dino Londis