Remembering the glory days of innovation in corporate ITFor lovers of Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland, the Cheshire Cat has special appeal. Distinctive among Wonderland characters, the Cat is enigmatic creature that maintains a cool, grinning outsider status. The Cat appears and disappears at will, at times revealing only its toothy grin as evidence of its presence.
Innovation within the Information Technology department, it seems, is like the Cheshire Cat. It appears and disappears at will in conversations but not much else occurs. As I see it, innovation is a word that is too often used and abused, on par with the word strategy. The overuse has led to dilution of its meaning. Innovation to me simply means trying to meet future needs in a new way. The corollary therefore is that innovation is not about solving today’s problems with incremental changes; it means solving next year’s problems with both incremental and substantial changes. So innovation is inherently disconcerting for IT. IT leadership is mired with many of the daily pressing issues that have everything to do with today and current needs. Additionally, concerns about a diminishing budget and a responsibility to protect the IT security citadel make the players more defensive and far less creative. Thus the immediate issues, unfortunately, make the Cheshire Cat disappear far too often.
Consumer technology is outpacing enterprise technology
It is not hard to make the argument to the IT community that consumer technology is far outpacing enterprise technology. Many who can remember ‘the good old days’ of enterprise computing can attest to the technology innovation that happened within large IT organizations; they had the resources and the skills. In those days, users were subservient to IT. Unlike the relatively slower-paced enterprise IT, innovation has become more democratic in the outside world. The ubiquity of communication, coupled with the commoditized-miniaturization of technology, has created new opportunities for users to not only be effective consumers of information technology, but also powerful producers. Today’s end user has upped the ante by becoming a self-confident creator and sees IT as a barrier to be avoided, and systematically circumvented, in order to benefit business and personal productivity.
Are you creating a customer?
Peter Drucker, “the man who invented management,” according to BusinessWeek, has famously said that the purpose of business is to create a customer. IT, it seems, is losing customers. Online applications and third-party cloud-based services are luring creative and entrepreneurial employees away from the perceived anachronistic IT infrastructure. While the challenge of implementing innovation into IT is a heady one, hope and resources exist to help the brave CIO in pulling IT forward. One such resource is the Innovation Value Institute – a group created to help CIOs on their journey to transform IT from “cost centre” to “value generator”. Innovation is clearly a driver for value creation. Most recently, I was co-facilitating a workshop on Client Operations and Support. We were able to create a Service Management Framework by using an IVI document as a guide for mapping the current and future state of Service Management operations for the organization. With more organizations coming forward with tools such as this, we will not be forced to ask the Cheshire Cat for directions.