Innovation: within companies and on a global scale

Recently I had the privilege of sitting on the panel for the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) “Business Leaders of Tomorrow” award.  This was organised by the TSB’s Knowledge Transfer Partnerships and was a fantastic day spent talking with 11 high-achieving young business leaders operating in a wide range of sectors and roles.  It was inspiring to hear how they had demonstrated leadership and created real value for their employers from the initiatives they’d led.  I clearly cannot talk about the individuals that the panel decided should win an award (at least not until their names are in the public domain in the autumn); however you can get a good sense from the 2010 winners.

What resonated with me is that these people were talking about innovating within in their companies and yet none of the fell into the trap of talking about IT which is so tempting a vice in the technology sector.  I have a ton of opinion on this particular topic as previous blog posts have shown but actually I found a really succinct and articulate exposition of what I was planning to discuss in a fellow CTO’s blog as Andy Mullholland at Capgemini wrote about how the CIO is trapped between the CEO’s desire for innovation and the CFO’s need for compliance.

Having decided not to duplicate a well argued blog post I’d like to bring your attention to another recent publication: INSEAD’s Global Innovation Index (GII).  This is an annual report measuring countries/economies worldwide in terms of their capabilities to innovate and the results they derive.  The report looks at the “input” aspects which are the capabilities a country needs in place to enable innovation to take place collated in five categories:

  • Institutions
  • Human capital and research
  • Infrastructure
  • Market sophistication
  • Business sophistication

It also then looks at the “output” dimension which is evidence that innovation has taken place and that value has been created. This dimension is collated into two categories (with a number of sub-grouping for sensible granularity):

  • Scientific outputs
  • Creative outputs

Finally an index is created from the ratio of each dimension to give a view on the efficiency with which innovation is executed, termed the Innovation Efficiency Index.

What I found surprising is which countries are most highly ranked against the “input” and “output” dimensions and then the Global Innovation Efficiency Index.  A number of countries that I expected to be leading lights in the Innovation Efficiency Index were missing from the top ten, although it was extremely pleasing to see the UK there in tenth spot (just behind the US in seventh).

  1. Switzerland
  2. Sweden
  3. Singapore
  4. Hong Kong (SAR, China)
  5. Finland
  6. Denmark
  7. US
  8. Canada
  9. Netherlands
  10. UK

The report has a very good executive summary that makes very interesting reading, as does the full report. Europe notches up a cool 6 out of the top 10 countries (although the Nordic region has a very impressive 3 countries in the top 10 and 5 in the top 18!) and the report presents a number of different perspectives on the analysis as clearly understanding why a country or region is so ranked is key.

What I particularly liked about this report (over and above the depth and balance of the analysis) were the additional “analytical chapters” where the authors recognise that the GII model does not necessarily capture exactly the innovation capabilities and can miss certain aspects.  Three chapters that particularly caught my eye were concerned with:

  • Making cities smart and sustainable
  • The global footprint of innovation
  • Accounting for creativity in innovation: what we should be measuring and related difficulties

These are topics of great interest to me and I’ll be reading them carefully over the coming week or so, hopefully to return to in a future blog post.

Chief Ixxxxxx Officer – which are you?

I recently wrote about an opportunity to examine the role of a CIO: how a workshop with some students from ESSEC Business School had given me a welcome opportunity to think about my role wearing my CIO hat and its direction of travel.  This introspection had also been partly triggered in the days prior to the workshop  by my reading an thought provoking piece by R “Ray” Wang of Constellation Research entitled “The Four Personas of the Next Generation CIO”. I particularly liked his argument that the top CIOs will need to seamlessly integrate four personas to be high performers, namely Chief Integration Officer, Chief Infrastructure Officer, Chief Intelligence Officer and Chief Innovation Officer; that is a whole lot of chiefs!  The more I thought about his argument, the more it resonated and, somewhat annoyingly, I found it a far more elegant and succinct way of summing up the differing perspectives I had been referencing when presenting on the challenges facing CIOs today.  If you are a CIO, I suggest you need to read this material and, if you are an aspiring CIO, then doubly so.  The paper is restricted access but I also found that Ray has also posted his thinking to the Harvard Business Review Blogs and there is a neat graphic to boot:

Not all CIOs will attempt to operate all four personas solo and will look to supplement with their team members as suggested in the HBR blog post. However, this is exactly what I have been doing over the last 12 months and this simple model is actually extremely powerful when you map onto it activities, successes and failures.  I have started shamelessly referencing this model when discussing the CIO role and the challenges to help ensure I retain a balance. Partly for fun and partly as it is that time of year in Fujitsu for annual performance reviews I decided to map where I have allocated my time over the last six months by a quick/dirty review of my diary:

Now I can post-rationalize the time allocation along with the best of you.  I can give you all manner of coherent (in my mind at least) arguments for why my time has been so externally focused in the business rather than technologist mode and why when in technologist mode I have been focused on the integration space.  However, the value is in the self-review process of analysing and plotting the time allocation. What would be especially interesting is to plot in which quadrant my wins and my disappointments fall over the same period (and indeed I will be doing just that as preparation for my review, should my boss be reading!).

What this line of thought has confirmed for me is that I will be publishing an “annual report” for my function that will review our performance against objectives in the financial year just closed and set out our agenda for the coming twelve months.  We may well reflect the model above in the structure of the material but, if not, we will certainly be talking about how I and my team did against our targets in those four persona areas and how we will be jointly fulfilling all four in the coming year.  Clearly, like any good CIO, I will be balancing that future roadmap both with our corporate business imperatives and the available funding that we forecast the various business cases will generate.  If anyone has any great exemplars of such progress/performance reports that they are willing to share please feel free.

Finally I’d be failing in my declared intent to “keep it real” if I failed to cover one of the truisms of the CIO role: there is always more value you feel you should be delivering; there is never enough resource or funding to do all you know needs doing; and you will always be looking for initiatives to delight your stakeholders and user base (buying the time/space to carry out the hygiene projects without which eventually things will get terribly messy and difficult)!

Image credit © Harvard Business Publishing

An opportunity to examine the role of a CIO

I’ve spoken to many audiences on the nature of the CIO role and the imperatives facing those of us in that management position.  The norm is for the audience to be existing CIOs or senior IT leaders but last week I spoke to some potential CIOs of the future who are at an earlier stage of their career, as Fujitsu hosted 18 delegates from the ESSEC Business School to examine the role of the CIO in the modern enterprise. I found that the intellectual energy, enthusiasm and willingness to challenge of the delegates made for a fun event..

I spoke about a day in the life of the CIO: the challenges we meet; the business drivers we embrace; the many different ways that IT can relate to business; and the consequential dimensions that a CIO needs to cover (not just infrastructure/integration/information but also innovation and intelligence).  I’ll write more on these topics later but they were intended to give the delegates an insight into the life of a “real” CIO, or at least this particular one!

Following my talk, my team took some of the demands that I face and worked with the ESSEC students to workshop a part of the process which our Open Innovation Service covers, triaging a number of demands, analysing them for underlying issues, identifying possible solutions, and finally investigating the value that the resulting solutions may offer for ourselves, our customers and our customers’ customers.  Of course, we couldn’t go through all of the details of our Open Innovation Service in an hour but it gave the students some insight into the way that we approach innovation, and they seemed to enjoy the experience and we were all impressed by how they took to the challenge.

Innovation is an important part of being a CIO and it carries with it so much expectation – everyone has strong views about innovation! So it was gratifying that the workshop was so successful and, even in spite of the language barrier (I didn’t attempt to speak French!), the students really understood both the complexity and the potential of what we are trying to do. I hope they took home some valuable insight from the morning they spent with us. For my part, trying to explain the many pressures placed on the CIOs of today to CIOs of the future was a wonderful chance to look closely at my role and evaluate how it might evolve in the coming years.