Crossing the Innovation Chasm

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Research firm Info-Tech's advice for CIOs on innovation - change both the value you are delivering and the way you are delivering IT. A guest blog for Heller Search.

Guest blog by Info-Tech Research Group.

Everything you know about Information Technology (IT) will change in the next five years.  Everything.  A perfect storm of technology trends (Mobility, Social Media, Cloud, Big Data and Security) is pushing technology beyond  the  IT department and into  the business itself.  Did someone in your organization ‘forget’ to tell you about a cloud service they purchased for their department on their credit card?  Did they only ‘remember’ you once they needed it to integrate with a core system?

If this has happened to you, you need to change both the value you are delivering and the way you are delivering IT.  Your goal should be to get involved in the conversation earlier. To do that you need to be seen as a business enabler, not a business inhibitor.  IT used to be asked to “count the beans”.  Now your job is to help the business grow more beans.

CIO reality check: If you don’t innovate, you’ll become irrelevant. 

Innovation Chasm

Let’s talk about your role in innovation. At one time, you were probably a Firefighter – reacting to problems all day long.  In time you established some processes, got your feet under you, and became a Trusted Operator.  In a recent study conducted by Info-Tech Research Group, 52% of CIOs still self-identified as Firefighters, 40% as Trusted Operators, and only 8% as Innovators. Imagine the results if you asked their CEOs instead.

If you want to remain relevant you are going to have to cross the Innovation Chasm.

Why does the Innovation Chasm exist? As a CIO, you have been charged with protecting your organization’s valuable assets, and with providing a reliable and stable infrastructure.  As a result, you have become the “CI-No”:

  • “No, we can’t buy that application you saw in an airplane magazine.”
  • “No, we can’t have a new Web site built in two weeks.”
  • “No, we can’t do that because it will expose our customer data.”

You could be the CI-No because you were the only game in town: if the business wanted access to technology, they had to come through you. That’s not the case anymore.  One of the byproducts of the perfect storm is that the business can now access technology directly from the Cloud without your involvement, and without your knowledge. It happens in companies of all sizes, in every industry, regardless of your IT or security stance. When business has access to that technology, it widens the chasm.

IT has to up its game, and smart CIOs are on a path to help the business use technology to innovate both what they do and how they do it.

Let’s look at this a different way. 

CEOs Hierarchy of Needs from the CIO

Chasms can be daunting, so it’s easier to approach innovation as a series of steps. Traditionally, CIOs have focused on those bottom steps, on helping to get the fundamentals right to provide highly available and highly secure computing platforms that support the business. 

But increasingly CIOs efforts have to be focused on the next steps – what we at Info-Tech Research Group call the CIO Sweet Spot.  Focus on achieving quick wins in the CIO Sweet Spot to earn a broader innovation mandate.  You’ll know you’ve earned your mandate when the CEO, CFO, CMO and other members of the C suite look to you for technology-enabled business innovation that will help them lower costs, increase process efficiency and garner significant revenue gains. 

To become an Innovator, you need to challenge your own organizational inertia, stay ahead of trends, and sustain and grow a disciplined process of innovation throughout your company.  Info-Tech Research Group’s 3R’s of Innovation were designed to help you meet this challenge. 

Reality.  A business needs assessment of where you are today, and a mandate of what you need to do to remain relevant tomorrow. 

Role.  As a CIO, you are lucky enough to have a unique end-to-end view of your business and you should be the driving force behind much of what it takes for your company to innovate.

Results.  Innovation does not just happen.  It takes focus.  It takes discipline.  It takes process.  We call it institutionalizing innovation.  Info-Tech Research Group has a governance model, framework and hands-on tools and advice to help you make this happen in your organization.

By following the 3R’s of Innovation, you will find opportunities to drive innovation within your company, you will position your company for the future, and you personally will be seen as an innovator within your organization, which will reenergize you and give you new opportunities.

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Info-Tech Research Group is a practical and tactical research and advisory firm that works with over 28,000 IT professionals to help deliver measurable results.  If you would like to know more information about Info-Tech, please contact Jason Esler at

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