10 Reasons Every CIO Needs a Digital Innovation Strategy

It’s February 2007. Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, calls with a request for a product that has never been created, marketed or even come close to existing before. He asks for the impossible and wants it in Apple’s new mobile phone that was announced a month ago.

Oh, and he needs it ready for mass production in 3 months.

What would you do? If you’re Corning CEO Wendell Weeks, you say yes. Dusting off an older R&D project, Weeks sent the team into high gear to produce the ultra-thin and scratch-resistant glass, dubbed Gorilla Glass, that was a crucial part of the phone that would change the world. The results speak for themselves: $20 million in revenue for Corning in 2007 to $200 million just four years later.

What you don’t know is that the seeds for this level of innovation were woven into the company’s DNA and enforced even more strongly after the telecommunications industry crash sent their stock price careening toward rock-bottom at $1.50 per share. In his message to shareholders after the crash, Corning CEO James R. Houghton vowed that the company would succeed, despite the naysayers. The company’s strong investment in their R&D allowed them to weather the crash and come out on top with products like Gorilla Glass.

Every CIO today needs to see their company as facing similar conditions to their business model as Corning was back in the early 2000s. Digital disruption-- from the Ubers, Amazons, Netflixes of the world-- threatens every industry. Consumers expect and reward a connected digital experience and competitors are driving down operational costs with powerful mobile and digital applications that harness data to drive decision-making and automation.

Still not convinced? Here are ten more reasons why every CIO needs to sit down today to craft their digital innovation strategy:
1. Avoid tactical efforts. Looking into a mobile app? Thinking about replacing a legacy system? Congrats, your teams are pursuing digital innovation. They’ll get stuck in tactical efforts, however, without a strategy that comes from the CIO’s office. Set a framework, standards and policies to accelerate innovation and keep them out of the weeds.

2. Drive operations efficiency. The ROI on your operations is evaporating right now without a serious investment in digitizing and mobilizing key operations data for better decision-making. Paper forms, paper data-- your competitors are already figuring out how to eliminate paper and complete a digital transformation of their business model.

3. Find new markets. Digital products also bring new markets and business models. Diversify your products through digitization and find new customers. Your current customers want digital products-- and your future customers will need them. It’s absolutely imperative that businesses not play catch-up when seeing the wave of disruption in the industry.

4. Your current software development strategy won’t cut it. It’s time to triage. Digital innovation is going to drive major advancements in your industry and many companies are not ready to compete. The latest research indicates that one in four software development projects fail outright, with another 60 percent producing substandard or ineffective products. Digital innovation demands that companies produce digital products that work quickly and effectively; these stats show that most companies are not able to do so.

5. Traditional strategy models also won’t cut it. Start with the present and map the steps to the future. Risk is not OK. Business goals trump user needs. Sound familiar? These are just a few of the tenets of existing strategy models that need to be thrown out in order for your digital innovation strategy to truly deliver innovation and not just lip service.

6. The CIO needs to lead an IT evolution. Does your IT department function as customer service or are they an integral part of your business model? Information technology is creating a revolution, and CIOs need to lead an evolution at their own companies to understand how to leverage information technology to lead the industry.

7. It will be too late by the time you need it. Don’t fall behind. CIOs need to identify the weaknesses in their ability to adapt their business models to leverage information technology to deliver operations efficiency and new products now. By the time the “Uber” of your industry announces, you will be scrambling without a strategy-- and without a chance to compete.

8. Your customers are already looking for better digital products. Your customers want a personalized digital experience from your app-- can you deliver? The innovations that were once revolutionary are now a part of everyday life: Amazon Now delivers goods within an hour, many TV channels are pursuing digital streaming subscription models, contextually aware applications are driving new experiences in department stores. Your customers expect this now, so don’t get caught playing catch-up.

9. Your employees are frustrated without it. Your employees go from using powerful, intuitive smart phones and tablets in their personal life to the technology at your company. The frustration that they experience when having to lug a laptop around or input forms manually-- the farther along the consumer digital products market picks up, the more your employees’ frustration will build at why your company can’t keep up.

10. You’ll definitely need it to survive. Gartner predicts that in just two years, 25 percent of companies will lose competitive ranking due to a lack of digital business competence. Will yours be one of them?


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