Innovating IT

Unprompted and with little fanfare, this CIO loaded a few of her staff on a plane to the company’s annual sales conference, and they setup a small booth where the salespeople could get technical support, solve hardware or software problems and get any other miscellaneous support they might need. The booth was a huge hit, and the price of a few plane tickets did more for IT and the CIO’s reputation among sales than a massive CRM implementation IT had spent years on.

Again, no one came knocking on the CIO’s door demanding IT representation at the sales conference, she simply found an innovative way to deliver a solution to a problem they could not yet articulate.

Solve problems, don’t deliver “solutions”. – Many corporate IT departments are stuck in a morass of spending years seeking funding for a “solution” rather than attempting to solve a business problem. The IT industry feeds this trend, attempting to pitch their products as if a few bits of software and some professional services really were a competitive weapon.

A truly innovative IT department can combine process expertise with technical acumen to solve a business problem, delivering the most expedient and efficient solution rather than the most technically elegant. Often IT forgets about the 80/20 rule, spending 80% of its time on the technically sexy 20% of a business problem.

If IT is truly part of the business, you can and should say “No” to requests that do not provide competitive advantage to the company as a whole, even if they do justify the latest and greatest software package or shiny new hardware.

True innovation is the stuff of legends, be it the first telephone call or a sea of smiling sales reps at the annual sales conference. Legends move beyond cost and benefit discussions, and can elevate the CIO and IT to key players within the corporation. Rather than regaling tales of late night coding and connecting networks, imagine telling the new CIO how you changed the direction of the corporation, precipitating your move into the CEO’s office.

Patrick Gray is the founder and president of Prevoyance Group, located in Harrison, NY. Prevoyance Group provides strategic IT consulting services. Past clients include Gillette, Pitney Bowes, OfficeMax and several other Fortune 500 and 1000 companies. Patrick can be reached at [email protected].