Is innovation under the CIO worth funding?

Is innovation under the CIO worth funding?

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This morning, John Dodge of the Enterprise CIO Forum asks this question: Is innovation under the CIO worth funding?

I’ll let John’s explanation of the question stand on its own, and freely recognize that his question originates from a CIO-centric publication, catering to CIOs, who are interested in all things CIO. Duly noted.

But – to my grizzled eyes, I’m not sure that this is even the right question – or questions – to ask.

Why is innovation within an organization to be limited solely to the span of control of the CIO? Or for that matter, any single business unit?

Perhaps I have the same problem with the funding of an area with the stated purpose of innovation that I have with having a Chief Innovation Officer, that’s somehow supposed to magically transform their organization.

Everyone in the enterprise – from the lowliest staffer to the top of the food chain – should be invested in doing what they do; better, faster, ever-more efficient. Setting up funding under the CIO specifically for innovation? We should set up budgets for “serendipity” and “luck” while we’re at it.

If you’ve paid attention over the last several years in the IT space, you’ve certainly heard the term bimodal IT (Can’t go to a Gartner presentation without seeing at least one slide with this on it) – that is, the conceit that IT really operates in a lets-keep-the-lights-on-and-the-servers-working mode, and an agile (the fleet of foot kind and methodology kind) mode, where innovative thinking is encouraged to exploit new opportunities as they present themselves in the new digital age.

In truth, the world is not this straightforward. Business is intrinsically multi-modal and multi-valent.

And innovation – even, and especially, technological innovation – is no longer under the sole purview of your IT organization.

Why do we need to maintain racks and racks of servers in our enterprise, when Infrastructure-as-a -Service (IaaS) is commoditized, safe, and increasingly reliable – especially if our main line of business is not technology driven to begin with?

Perhaps that is a question we should be asking. It’s certainly innovative.

More and more, internal departments no longer wait upon IT to deliver technology solutions, when they can get what they need in a ready-to-buy Software-as-a-Service offering. Where does IT fit into this new landscape?

That sounds like a question to be asked.

Who gets to innovate is not a funding question – it’s an existential one.

And so, if someone asks: is innovation under the CIO worth funding? The answer is a resounding “no.”

The tl;dr version of my argument is this – if you’re asking whether innovation as a concept is something to be carved out of a single business unit, rather than asking the larger existential question about the overall role of innovation in your organization – then you’re absolutely asking the wrong question.

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