The CIO evolves to a Chief Innovation Officer

Driven by the ambition of CXO peers (CEO, CFO, CMO, COO ...) the Chief Information Officer feels the pressure to deliver innovation with new digital services and technologies. It often is difficult. We think that in today’s digital business environment, the CIO role requires modifications due to new priorities to their traditional role.

Traditionally, we see three main requirements to their role. Firstly the requirement to innovate and introduce IT to support new business. Secondly the need to improve their current IT services to meet new demands. And finally, to deliver and support sustainable IT services that are agile and cost-efficient.

The increasing need for digitization and innovation in organizations, towards customers, puts more pressure on the innovation part of the CIOs role. And that’s where we see today’s CIO’s struggling.

Why are CIOs struggling with innovation?

Some CIOs are struggling with their legacy that needs to be updated, integrated or renewed. This keeps them from their innovating role. This is a typical urgent – important dilemma.

CIOs are most of the time innovating in a non-structured way, driven by ideas, supplier’s initiatives, or whatever. Most people assume that creating new ideas is the beginning of the innovation process, but actually, that’s not true. Ideation occurs in the middle of the disciplined innovation process. So, to innovate, the CIO first needs to implement a process.

The third one is a matter of organizational change. We see that the CIO has a hierarchical position in the organization. To introduce innovations and encourage organizational change you have to work over the organization silos. There is a need for independence. And that is difficult if the CIO is part of that hierarchy at the same time.

What about the Chief Innovation Officer (CINO)?

The CINO is responsible for managing the innovation process inside the organization. That process identifies strategies, business opportunities, and new technologies and then develops new capabilities, new business models, and new industry structures to take advantage of those new opportunities.

The CINO doesn't have to report to the CEO or another C-level executive in a hierarchical way. CINO is a functional title, similar to the Chief Compliance Officer. The words "Chief" and "Officer" are used to communicate that a person in this position is responsible for driving innovation throughout the entire organization. Using the functional "Chief ... Officer" title helps to communicate that this is a cross-organizational position and enables this person to work across organizational silos.

The CINO focuses on radical or breakthrough innovation by making use of implemented innovation processes. The term CINO is used to differentiate the position of the traditional Chief Information Officer.

Should the CIO be the new CINO (and an IT manager needs to be appointed)?

Yes, because so much of the CIO’s traditional responsibilities are now virtualized with nearly everything as a Service (XaaS), his task in this domain is reduced. The IT manager (to be appointed if not present yet) can focus on the need to improve current IT services, meet new demands and deliver and support sustainable IT services that are agile and cost-efficient. The IT manager takes position in the hierarchy of the organization and reports to C-level. Naturally, since both functions are highly influencing each other. Given the relatedness and rapid changes within IT and business there must be a close collaboration with shared knowledge and understanding between CINO and IT-manager.

In his new role as CINO, the CIO is free. Free to focus on innovation and become a CINO. Not in the hierarchy, but independent over the silos. The CINO is focused on the implementation & running of the innovation process and optimally using information and latest technologies. He uses these insights to lead the change of processes, products and services and implement business innovations.

If you have other perspectives and lessons do share them here!

Keep up with us on LinkedIn and Twitter. Read our blogs on www.ditragroup.com.

For more information, contact us!