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Think you're creative? Five ways CIOs can innovate for the business

How to shape new opportunities despite tough conditions...
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Innovation can be nebulous so providing a strong objective for a particular project is essentialPhoto: Shutterstock

Getting creative in troubled economic times can be tough. So, how can CIOs prove the value of innovation? Mark Samuels reports.

In the present climate it can be hard for CIOs to shape the type of opportunities that will provide new benefits to the business. So silicon.com has canvassed the views of a group of IT experts for their suggestions. They have come up with five key ways that CIOs can continue to create new opportunities for the business.

1. Develop new partnerships and ideas

Asos.com director of IT Dan West says CIOs need to carve out opportunities to start innovating. West is leading the transformation of his IT team, so the skills of the department are designed to meet wider business objectives and to help develop creative ideas.

"That might include partnerships with universities and start-ups, or through the creation of internal events that are developed to inspire innovation," he says. One such example is the Hackathon, a trial event created by West and his IT team to generate new business ideas.

Development workers at Asos were given a brief and the freedom to try to come up with great innovations in a single day. "It was all about harnessing the enthusiasm for freedom," says West, who adds that some of the ideas were good enough to be used in the business and that the winning ideas from the best teams received prizes.

2.Think about long-term objectives

Innovation is, at best, a nebulous concept. Providing a strong objective for a particular project is absolutely essential if CIOs are going to receive funding for a new initiative, says Dave Upton, associate director at independent consultancy Xantus.

"If you can't bank on innovation, your people will simply spend tactically on this year's project. You need innovation to prove to the business that long-term investment will work and be better than tactical spending," he says.

Analyst firm Gartner estimates as much as 66 per cent of the IT budget globally is spent on day-to-day operations, leaving little scope for allocating funds to transformational IT. Upton says the potential to redress this balance provides a great opportunity for the savvy CIO.

"Ten years ago, the IT director came through operations and spent his or her working life in IT. What such technology leaders were not good at was...

About

Mark Samuels is a business journalist and editor at IT leadership organisation CIO Connect. He has written for various organisations, including the Economist Intelligence Unit, Guardian Government Computing and Times Higher Education.

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