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After reading Oliver Bussmans (@SAPCIO) comments and watching the interview about CIOs need to drive the core innovation in their business. Oliver explains the three roles that the CIO provides:

  • Operational excellence.
  • Transformation.
  • Strategic Innovation.

Having reported to numerous CIOs over the years I can relate to Oliver's statements and can distinctly identify the CIOs that were strategically innovative to solve business demands.  Here are some of the comments and methods some of the CIOs I reported to had.  Which of course, have rubbed off on me.

  1. Understand the Business. The CIO always stated "All staff need to be business analysts". I remember this statement 10 years ago and thought it was a little crazy as a techy. But as IT got engaged in the business it actually evolved my understanding of the business which allowed me to come up with innovative ways to fulfill business requirements.

  2. Understand Core and Non-Core Business Processes. Those processes that are core to your business should be the focus of the innovation - that's where the money and value is. The non-core processes should be candidates for externalization so that IT can focus on the core processes and innovation.

  3. Creative Abrasion. Now this one was a stretch for me, but the thought is around setting up a competitive environment among staff in IT. The key here is that it needs to be a friendly and fun.

  4. Acquire the Right Resources. This applies to the CIO and leaders in the IT organization. I specifically remember hiring a young kid out of university and teaming him up with a very senior developer who was open to change yet a very structured individual. The result was an amazing robust solution that was way beyond SAP BWs capabilities, yet they were able to pull it off. The business was over joyed by the solution. However, finding those people with a personal passionate devotion is very difficult!  But when you do hold on...

  5. Find the Right Competencies. Right now I am working with cloud providers and the key resources are exactly as Oliver says:

    • Security. This is so important. The ability to have the skills and competencies to design security patterns the provide secure access to cloud applications or controls for cloud providers accessing your systems is absolutely critical. Don't forget the network guys that are key in implementing the solutions.
    • Architecture. As Oliver mentioned a requirement for end-to-end architecture is important. This is my sweet spot and intimate to me. So many times I see a piece designed here and a piece designed there, but no one is reviewing the end-to-end design and how it all integrates and flows together.
    • Cloud. Pretty general, but CIOs need to think about how they might extend their data centers. A huge opportunity that not many organizations have thought of or have planned for.
    • Big Data. Yes there is a need for getting the right resources to manage your big data. This will depend on your maturity model in general. Either way you need an awesome data guy!

That is my 2 bucks/euros on driving innovation. I have always said "It's typically not the software that's the problem, it's who's implementing the solution."

Remember focus on core processes for innovation and prepare for cloud disruption.

Take care.

Darin Paton

Enterprise Architect and SAP Solution Architect

What sort of innovation techniques have you found successful?