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Three goals CIOs should prioritise to create an innovative enterprise

Three goals CIOs should prioritise to create an innovative enterprise

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The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown up an abundance of challenges for CIOs and their teams – who have had to find innovative ways of adapting their enterprises. Felipe Demetrio de Souza, Business Director at CI&T, explains how CIOs can help foster an innovative enterprise that will be able to withstand the test of time.

Last year, we saw business change happen on a scale previously unknown. Organisations have had to adapt fast to the current environment, as the pandemic turned traditional ways of working on its head. For most organisations, Digital Transformation has become a necessity – not just for remote working, but to ensure they can continue to adapt to a volatile environment, and to customers’ changing needs. For this reason, the ability to deliver disruptive solutions has become more important than ever.

When speaking to IT executives, however, I often hear the same thing – they’ll say that one of their top priorities is to harness technology to drive innovation and build better customer experiences. Unfortunately, having ‘innovation as the top priority’ usually means having one or two initiatives that may be considered as ‘innovative’ – but are effecting little change.

To truly make a difference, CIOs need to reorient their business’ entire culture around uncertainty and disruptive ideas. By doing this, organisations can continue to adapt to shifting circumstances how ever volatile the current environment might be.

Here, I explore three goals you should move to the top of your priority list if you want to create an enterprise that is ready for the future.

Make good predictions by embracing uncertainty

Though uncertainty has always been a part of the equation, COVID-19 has jump-started inspiring innovative responses from businesses, proving that necessity is the mother of invention. 

Dealing with uncertainty is all about your ability to be nimble, to be able to respond quickly to new trends and opportunities. But, as important as knowing when to jump into an opportunity is, knowing when to jump out of one is crucial too. Think small experiments – the ones that you are not betting your whole company on, quick cycles whereby at the end of it you have something concrete to look at and reflect, and also the power to pivot or even stop any initiative. Innovative ideas need room to mature and evolve, so give it the environment to do so.

To get the most out of an experimentation culture, the perception of success and failure also needs to shift. Put value learning over outcomes. Having multiple small experiments will not yield the expected result, but they will help shape the ones that do. By embracing uncertainty, you’ll be better positioned to catch opportunities that you may not have found otherwise.

Promote challenging the norm to empower transformation

To put it bluntly, innovation will most likely not come from senior leadership, and it will not come from directions such as ‘create something innovative this year’. Instead, it will come from your front line workers and their deep understanding of what customers expect, want and need. It’s up to you as a leader to foster an environment that values challenging ideas.

Spend some time thinking about what kind of environment you have. Do your teams feel empowered and comfortable bringing new ideas to further business goals? Do they feel that they have a voice and that they are being heard? Look around during a meeting – if everyone is nodding instead of speaking their mind, there’s a missed opportunity to improve.

Most ideas take months, if not years, to get approved if it needs to navigate most companies’ internal approval procedures. You also have meetings, roadmaps and politics on top of approvals – all before testing a core concept of a project. By creating an atmosphere that enables multiple ideas to be tested and validated quickly, you’re able to rapidly scale what works.

Create a consumer-centric business by empowering your teams

‘Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realise it themselves’.  – Steve Jobs

This quote encapsulates the point that by understanding customer needs, you are able to improve your odds for successful innovation. There’s no better time than now to make sure that all aspects of your business are putting the customer at its centre.

Creating a consumer-centric business starts from the top. Gone are the days where leaders passively use customer research and data – and instead become more actively immersed in customer connections. In doing so, they can understand customer behaviours and use their insights and observations to shape a better business strategy. By starting with the most influential people at the top, it can then trickle down to the rest of the organisation.

However, as previously explained, it’s crucial for your teams to be empowered to have the level of autonomy to put your customer-centric values in practice. They should be trained and given the practical tools to create a more personalised experience for customers.

Finally, in order for your entire organisation to be driven by customer needs, every area of your business should have a single view of customer data.

Often, this type of information – customer interaction on sites, purchases and engagement with content – are isolated in different siloes. Linking this data together creates the insightful narrative that helps organisations discern habits and needs.

The innovative enterprise of the future

The pandemic has shown that companies are capable of making radical changes under extreme pressure. The shift to homeworking at the beginning of the pandemic happened at speeds previously thought impossible. Companies need to bring this crisis mindset into the new normal and continue to nurture and prioritise innovative ideas. COVID-19 will not be the last crisis in the coming years – companies simply cannot afford to return to old ways.

By focusing on the specific tactics explained in this article, CIOs can help foster an innovative enterprise that will be able to withstand the test of time, as well as bring continuous innovation to a world that shifts faster and faster.

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