It’s time for CIOs to be innovation leaders

CIOs are in a unique position to lead cross-enterprise innovation — if only they’d awaken the Force

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It’s not a new assertion that CIOs occupy a position that affords them vision across the entire enterprise. What is new is how important to the future of business (and to the CIO role) that enterprise-wide perspective is becoming. I see it as the key to unlocking innovation leadership. And I believe it will differentiate CIOs and render them indispensable in the era of business transformation.

The CIO’s silo-bridging perspective is like the Force in the Star Wars mythos—an energy field that surrounds and penetrates all, binding the galaxy together. Here are just 10 aspects of our corporate “galaxy” routinely penetrated by the CIO’s vision:

1. How work gets done across the enterprise

2. The conversion path of data into information into knowledge

3. Processes and workflows that channel and tap into that information

4. The end-to-end customer experience

5. System schisms and architectural abysses

6. Siloed agendas on collision courses

7. Cumulative risk

8. Total vendor and consultant footprints

9. Technology debt — the accumulating cost of deferred tech upgrades and replacement

10. Opportunity costs associated with investment decisions

No other executive position can claim such a breadth and depth of visibility. The CEO’s vision doesn’t penetrate to the level where work gets done. The CFO only sees the money trail. The chief of operations sees primarily P&L processes. Sales and marketing heads are limited to the principal customer touch points. And HR only knows personnel issues.

The CIO’s unique exposure provides unprecedented power to do good, for both the business and technology. CIOs already tap into this force to protect the enterprise from internal and external threats that could destroy it. Some of their most common cross-enterprise conservation or fiduciary responsibilities include:

  • Oversight of IT spend
  • Ensuring architecture compatibility and integration
  • Oversight of total vendor and contractor footprint
  • Managing cybersecurity vulnerability profiles
  • Integrated asset management
  • Managing business continuity risk profiles
  • Technology capital planning and investment management
  • Streamlining/rationalizing business processes
  • Ensuring tech and data-related compliance
  • Management of data landscape and analytics capabilities
  • Management of business solutions development

Anyone questioning the value of IT leaders should consider that if CIOs weren’t doing these things, no one would be.

In our era of digital business transformation, these conservation-oriented responsibilities are as essential as ever. But transformational businesses need more than fiduciary leadership. They need people to drive innovation across the organization, bridging the silos. My CIO Executive Council research shows that this is not happening — CIOs are not taking responsibility for cross-enterprise innovation. This “other side” of the Force is sleeping. It’s time for CIOs to awaken it.

This story, "It’s time for CIOs to be innovation leaders" was originally published by CIO.

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