Keeping ahead of innovation

With the combination of several major new advances in technology opening up the possibilities for new solutions, and IT departments coming under pressure to enable business transformation.

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Keeping ahead of innovation
By  Mark Sutton Published  June 13, 2013

Staying current with technology development, both in terms of what technology is breaking through, and what the implications might be to a CIO’s organisation, is not an easy task, particularly given the current opening up of technologies into new realms of mobile, cloud, social and large scale analytics.

In recent years, the CIO has faced reduced budgets, and new technology has not been a high priority. Now, with the era of the third platform, the emergence of new technologies and the apparent recovery of IT budgets — a recent Gartner survey found that four out of five CEOs expected to increase IT spending in 2013 — the CIO is faced with having to understand a wide range of potentially game-changing technologies.

Mark McDonald, group vice president, Head of Research for Gartner Executive Programs says that the technology opportunities now are greater than they have been in over a decade, putting innovation back on the agenda.

“Innovation is hot now because we are coming out of a decade where there were no major business technology innovations. If you go from the dotcom bust to 2011, there really was no major piece of information technology that was driving innovation — the cloud was predominantly seen as an infrastructure replacement model; the other thing that people were talking about was outsourcing — in that whole decade. The new technologies to create these innovations, the technology-intensive solutions, now exist, and they haven’t existed before. We are coming out of an innovation desert, into a bazaar of digital opportunities.”

Andrew Baul Lewis, director of the ICT Practice, Frost & Sullivan, also sees a speeding up of the cycle of innovation: “The IT and comms industries have very rapid cycles for new releases, and with the development of new areas — such as security and apps — that speed has increased in the past five or so years. CIOs should keep a watching eye on the latest tech, but companies need to move at their own pace, according to its capability and demands.”

There are multiple sources of information to help IT decision makers stay current, but not all have the same value or usefulness.

“There is a constant flood of new technologies and features from ICT suppliers that attack the CIOs,” Baul Lewis says. “But for many CIOs, the multiple announcements simply blend into each other and become white noise. In order to make sense of this noise, CIOs should rely on trusted partners and sources. As well as their own team, there are usually integrators or resellers who have to deploy and develop ICT systems. The quality partners will try to make sure that what advice they give is in the best interest of their customers, not their suppliers.”

Baul Lewis also recommends other sources of data such as business publications, along with resources such as customer reference websites, which can offer a more in-depth understanding of how to address new technologies.

For Gartner, the most important source of information for CIOs is each other, through peer-to-peer networking and conversation. McDonald says that interaction with peers, both face-to-face, which has been the more predominant form in the Middle East, but also moving into online forums and virtual spaces, gives CIOs the depth and breadth of interaction to discuss the real issues they have, and to get impartial advice from those that have already tackled those issues.

“The reason we say that the most powerful way for CIOs to stay up-to-date is to network with each other is because peer-to-peer networking, or peer interaction networking is the stuff that enables the CIO to go as deep as they need to, and the answers to stick really well,” he says.

McDonald highlights Gartner Peer Connect, an online community, with a peer-driven agenda that is open to Gartner customers, with participation from its analysts. The online community has generated a “tremendous amount of interaction”, according to McDonald, since launch 18 months ago. Online communities can provide a global reach for CIOs to ask questions, and also have the benefit of providing the history of any previous discussions on a subject, to create a knowledge resource.

Naturally, both McDonald and Baul Lewis believe that analyst organisations have an important role to play in guiding IT decisions. Engagement with analysts removes the immediate commercial pressure that comes with discussions with solution providers, and helps to build trust, which in turn leads to better discussions of the real business issues at stake.

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