How the 4 Cs of innovation can lead to successful digital transformation

At the Landmark CIO Summit, Steven Peltzman, chief business technology officer of Forrester Research, explained the four elements CIOs need to get right for digital projects.

Video: The 4 Cs of innovation

Companies undergoing digital transformation face many barriers, some of which are self-imposed, according to Steven Peltzman, chief business technology officer of Forrester Research. Some employees believe that innovation has to be large and expensive, he said. Others feel that they are too busy with their day-to-day work to disrupt operations.

But digital transformation requires tech and business leaders to drive a culture change in their enterprise to help employees embrace innovation, Peltzman said. Here are the 4 Cs for innovation that CIOs need to get right in order to drive success in their digital transformation projects, according to Peltzman.

1. Customer

Many businesses see innovation through a narrow lens of their product or service, Peltzman said. "Innovators in your company can only see innovation through what the company does," Peltzman said. "It blocks them from what customers really want."

Take the Dorco Pace 7 razor, which added a seventh blade and designed an ad campaign around this "innovation," Peltzman said. But companies like Dollar Shave Club proved that customers don't care about a seventh blade--they care about a new delivery method. "It's about what do they want, not what do you make," Peltzman said.

SEE: Research: The CIO as business catalyst - Role, relevance, and value (Tech Pro Research)

2. Crude

When you or someone on your team has an idea, prove it out at a very low level before investing money in it, Peltzman said. Lay out your plans via Google Docs and sticky notes before you make a major presentation. This kind of crude rendering can help you figure out if what you are proposing is actually valuable, Peltzman said.

Image: iStockphoto/phive2015

3. Curious

Once you do a crude rendering and determine what will hold value for your business and your customers, you should run tests to see if your theory holds, and be open to changing your plan. Sometimes when you test a new service or product with customers, you learn that they want something completely different than you expected, Peltzman said. "You have to have an open mind and be open to learning something," he added.

SEE: Ebook--IT leader's guide to achieving digital transformation (Tech Pro Research)

4. Chaos

Managing the chaos inherent to innovation falls to leadership, Peltzman said. "When people are out there trying to do their jobs on a day-to-day basis, your innovation is a threat to the ability to run the machine in a well-oiled manner," he said. Peltzman noted that he recently asked Forrester's CEO which option he would prefer: Have operations running well and business growing 2% per year, or have an innovation that makes the company millions, but creates big problems with operations that need to be solved. The CEO took the second option.

"You need to give people permission, so they know you will take care of the chaos their innovation causes," Peltzman said.

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