How to Capitalize on the Golden Age of IT Innovation

In May I hosted Adobe’s annual CIO Innovation Forum, partnering with leading Silicon Valley venture firms – including Canaan Partners, Greylock Partners, SierraVentures and Sutter Hill Ventures — to help foster enterprise innovation.  During the event, the Adobe IT team and leaders across the organization were able to learn about emerging companies that are commercializing innovative, market-changing technologies.   The event challenges my team to think differently about the business and spark new ideas for how we can continue to innovate in Adobe IT.   One of the investors kicked-off the event with an inspiring comment:  “We are truly in a golden age of IT innovation.”

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As a serial CIO, with more than 25 years of experience, I couldn’t agree more.  We have reached an inflection point within information technology (IT) where the conversation is moving from cost to value.   IT is no longer focused on back-office infrastructure.  In a digital world, the function has transformed to help unearth valuable data insights and define the future of products.  Given the historical and deep knowledge with big data, security and infrastructure, the IT function plays an integral role in delivering delightful customer experiences across all digital platforms.

I elaborated on the IT transformation at Adobe’s EMEA Digital Marketing Summit, which brings together marketing and IT decision makers who are looking for ways effectively reach consumers through digital marketing solutions.   On a panel addressing how the Marketing and IT relationship has been reinvented, my fellow panelists and I discussed the convergence between IT and marketing with the ability to take data capabilities in the IT organization and merge it with marketing aspirations.  The Marketing and IT partnership is tighter than ever; both functions are working synergistically to implement and manage digital technology and leverage data insights to provide personalized experiences.

It is an exciting time in IT, from the role the function is playing in developing products and solutions to the new partnerships that are being forged to drive business impact.   I believe there are a number of fundamental tenets that will help IT leaders capitalize on the golden age of IT innovation:

  • Shift to a Services Model:  IT leaders need to shift their organization from a delivery model to an end-to-end services model.    Move from a project management and back-end infrastructure role to taking on the total cost of ownership in developing services that help drive the profits of a company.  With this model IT specialists have an ongoing partnership with the business, product, and marketing organizations and are embedded into those teams.
  • Build New Skill Sets:  The next generation of IT is re-defining the skill set and competencies of people in the organization.  IT Specialists need to have an end-to-end services mindset where they work on smaller teams for longer periods of time and take a “you build it, you run it” approach.  IT specialists also need to think more like marketers, as data is deeply embedded in the process of creating, targeting and delivering personalized experiences to customers.
  •  Think Like a CEO:  The CIO is in the unique position to see the entire spectrum of the company’s operation and business.  As CIOs’ influence broadens, they must think like a 21st century CEO having a strong acumen around running a business (P&L), anticipating customers’ needs, innovating experiences, and understanding the competitive environment.
  •  Entrust the Business:   Leaders need to ensure they are prioritizing the projects that will truly drive business impact.  Entrusting projects/initiatives to other groups or vendors is a very smart and strategic decision.  By doing so, resources are freed up to focus on IT innovation and initiatives that help drive business revenue.

 I am energized by the opportunities that lie ahead in IT.  Never before have I seen the level of partnership and integration across the organization, than I have seen today.  We are breaking down the barriers and silos and forging a new path for the next generation of IT.