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Innovation amid disruption and change

Innovation amid disruption and change

Laef Olson, CIO of RightNow Technologies, says most enterprises have a narrow view of innovation.

Enterprises still underestimate the impact of social networks and social media, says Laef Olson, CIO of RightNow Technologies. “Sure, we use LinkedIn and Facebook and maybe even dabble in Twitter, but those of us who are digital immigrants have only begun to recognise how this new ‘connectedness’ has transformed the culture, particularly for digital natives,” says Olson, when asked on his view on the technology that would make the most profound impact on the enterprise.

The CIO of the CRM software-as-a-service provider says enterprises need to adapt their processes and systems to this new connectedness. “The threat is that this new set of technologies will completely destroy all of our hard-won security controls and compliance processes, but they also have the potential to dramatically improve how we collaborate, communicate and build highly-effective teams around the world.

“Recognising this is half the battle, the other half will be hiring for it and doing it effectively.”

Olson says he has many opportunities to talk to CIO colleagues in other industries. “I’ve concluded that most CIOs wear at least three hats. First, they are responsible for delivering extraordinary business results utilising process and technology. Second, they are responsible for managing costs and driving efficiency. Finally, they are responsible for managing risk across operations, security and, increasingly, regulatory compliance. The specifics of our challenges often vary greatly, but there are consistent and common threads.

“We are all trying to deliver ‘better, faster, cheaper’ while maintaining operational excellence,” he says.

Asked how enterprises can foster innovation in this environment, he says it is important to understand what innovation is, and what it is not. For Olson, innovation is best defined as “a step forward in customer value”.

But enterprises, he says, often have a narrow view of innovation. “IT organisations tend to think about invention rather than innovation, and therefore artificially limit their results and success.

“A truly revolutionary invention only comes around once in a great while. Innovation can happen every day. It can be systematic. It can drive financial results in the short term. My advice is to think about your projects in terms of how you can improve customer value first, even before diving into the requirements. While you do that, expand your thinking to include all aspects of customer value.”

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