It is quite fascinating to see how technology is moving beyond process automation to bring people closer together both socially and professionally. One might say that the digital economy is more about people than technology.
The growing market of wearable devices seems to be focusing in large part on human wellness. Wrist bands that tell you how many steps you have taken through to measuring the quality of your sleep.
Imagine a future where on answering the knock on the door you find two paramedics one with a primed defibrillator. Perplexed you presume they are responding to a call from the elderly next door neighbour.
As you hit the ground it occurs to you that the smart vest the health insurance company insisted you wore to keep your premiums manageable was also integrated into the emergency services network. “Nice touch” is your final thought as the chest pain erupts and the associated light headedness results in an upright posture being no longer an option.
Whether this is caring in an emotional sense or caring as a set of tech-integrated processes is not the point. The fact that the ‘careables’ will lead to positive outcomes in respect of people’s health makes this growing market one to watch and encourage.
Innovation can be classified into value-enhancement and cost management. You could argue the latter is a subset of the former. Though taken beyond a certain point the value-enhancement element of the latter tails off dramatically.
Some CIOs complain about the budgetary constraints they face and how they barely have resources to keep the operational wheels turning, never mind focusing on innovation.
But given the disruptive technologies available in the market; the cloud comes to mind, shouldn’t job number one for the CIO be to take innovative approaches to driving cost out of the IT function to free up funds to help drive costs out of the rest of the business.
Certainly the savings made on the IT budget could be applied to value-enhancement activities. And if smartly negotiated some of the savings derived from the wider business tech-driven cost management initiatives could be reallocated to your value-enhancement innovation pot.
Ambidextrous organisations are those that can manage the business as it is (run / grow the business) whilst at the same time explore new opportunities that might lead to a disrupted business model or even market (change / save the business).
Exploration does not come naturally to established organisations. They appear to be more focused on keeping the analysts on side in the short term by demonstrating a ‘steady ship’. And even those that see beyond this struggle with the cultural inertia brought about by having created a ‘factory’ where the staff are little more than process cogs.
I believe we need someone to take charge of both the exploratory part of the business and the tension that exists between these two clashing business models. The CEO is the natural owner of this role.
But if they need it managed from an operational perspective, given the technology element associated with both models this could be a role for the CIO.
Perhaps it is time to beef up the resume in respect of conflict management, innovation and anthropology.
At the recent CIO100 event David Moschella from CSC’s Leading Edge Forum talked about the changing dynamic in respect of technology innovation.
In the old days the Silicon Valley technologists were focused on stretching science and creativity to build the most innovative technologies. This would attract business leaders who sought to exploit these technologies. This would invariably involve the technologists being taken to lunch.
Today the Valley technologists are more focused on disrupting industries using new technologies and as such those business leaders are more likely to be lunch than paying for it.
The game has changed now. If your organisation does not have at least one digital leader focused on both technology and industry disruption, your boardroom will be more akin to a private Las Vegas gaming room, where your leaders are oblivious to what is happening in the real world and are fast running out of chips.