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CIOs are today’s chief innovation officers

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Digitisation is changing the nature of a majority of businesses, and organisations. (Image Source: w3logistics)

The IT department is in a very fortunate position to have both the foresight and hindsight of an organisation, in addition to knowing what goes on in the engine room, placing the chief information officer of a business in the valuable position of also becoming chief innovation officer.

This is according to Bradley Coward, CIO at Sappi, who discussed the changing role of both business and IT at Saphila 2014.

“Sappi is no longer simply a ‘paper’ company, but rather one that enriches lives and creates positive experiences for the customer,” he says. In fact, Sappi’s products extend beyond paper to packaging, tissue and specialised cellulose that can be found in viscose textiles and clothing, pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs and household products.

“Digitisation is changing the nature of a majority of businesses, and organisations need to collaborate and understand their customers in order to transform and deliver these needs,” highlights Coward.

He pointed out that the CIO plays an important part in business transformation. As a conductor orchestrating the changes, the CIO also plays a significant role in the value proposition of a business.

CIOs own the musical score, and within the roles and responsibility of innovation officer, they are required to have the complete innovative architecture and technology design in place prior to the transformation, Coward explains.

He stated that for this reason, it is important that the CIO and the chief executive officer (CEO) are aligned in business strategy.

“The majority of CEOs rank IT issues within their top five business challenges. It is thus important that both CEO and CIO collaborate in order to ensure that one thoroughly understands the vision and requirements of the other,” he says.

Although technology innovation is nothing new to CIOs, Coward maintains that it is today’s accelerated nature of innovation that is different and needs to both be understood and latched onto, so as not to miss business opportunities.

“It is however also important that CIOs fully understand the innovation cycle prior to getting involved. Test all ideas to see if they are sustainable and remember that if you do not keep it simple, it will fail,” he says.

“CIOs can have a significant impact on an organisation if they act and behave like innovators, and strike the right balance between technology and creativity. As Steve Jobs said, ‘Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower’,” concludes Coward.

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