“The best way to predict the future is to invent it,” said Alan Kay, one of the earliest pioneers of object-oriented programming, personal computing, and graphical user interfaces, back in 1971 as quoted in SmallTalk.org. That’s sage advice for the CIO trying to determine where technology is headed, and what it means for the company.
Seventy percent of the senior business and IT executives in PwC’s Diamond Advisory Services’ 2010 Digital IQ study said that at least 30 percent of their company’s IT spending was outside the IT department. That tells us the rest of the business is hungry for innovation, and isn’t willing to wait for the IT department to deliver the “next big thing.” For CIOs who are looking to create new value for their organization in 2011, here are five areas for experimentation that have the potential to yield incremental innovations that can increase profitability.
1. Cloud Storage and Prototyping
Aside from server virtualization and a few CRM apps, most organizations haven’t really started using the cloud. Prototyping applications in a rapidly provisioned, web-based environment is one way to explore how your organization could use the cloud – think about how long it takes to get a server set-up for a simple prototype or demo. Also, for non-mission critical data, why not use cloud based storage instead of buying more?
Use these simple but important types of tests to figure out what the cloud means to your organization instead of sitting on the sidelines in 2011.
2. Location Awareness
Almost any asset on the move, from employees to vehicles, to products, and even customers, represents a possible test bed for experimentation. GPS chips continue to drop in price and are becoming more ubiquitous in smartphones, laptops, tablets and other devices. RFID technology continues to mature. Technology-enabled communities are leveraging information about the location of customers to drive traffic and sales.
The CIO should drive experimentation with location awareness technology to uncover low-risk, high value opportunities. Those might lie in real-time tracking for a logistics firm, or in conducting deep analysis of location-based information, such as the crime data for neighborhoods of highest risk exposure, for a property and casualty insurer.
According to the UN’s International Telecommunications Union there are more than 4.6 billion mobile phone subscriptions worldwide. What are the needs and problems you address for your customers among that huge group? What sort of experience are they craving?
It’s not just about gaming, maps, and weather data. This holiday season mobile price comparison apps are giving consumers new power when they visit retailers. Talk to your front-line salespeople and customer service leadership about how customers might benefit by using mobile apps from your company. Think beyond efficiencies and brainstorm about new services that can improve your value proposition and build more loyal customers.
Sophisticated apps aren’t necessarily needed either. One entrepreneur used simple SMS messaging to collect emergency reports from citizens during natural disasters.
4. Social Media
It is time to dive into the application program interfaces (APIs) of the major social media platforms that have arisen since the advent of the smart phone. How could a social media app help drive customer service efficiencies? How could crowd-sourcing be leveraged to engage customers in the design of new products? Most importantly, how can the information generated through social media activities be captured, stored and analyzed to yield fresh insights that lead to real innovation?
5. Data Visualization
On Dec. 7, 2010 the U.S. Treasury Department launched a new website redesign, including new data visualizations for information such as interest rate and Recovery Act data. Ask the CFO if she would like to take traditional reports and bar/pie charts to the next level by layering data in context. Demonstrate to the CMO what’s possible in analyzing market potential on a block-by-block basis in a given neighborhood and presenting that information in augmented reality or on a map.
Let the Technology Experimentation Begin
To promote successful experimentation you will need four prerequisites. Keep the work aligned with real business needs. Establish a means to generate fresh ideas, for example a dedicated team, a competition, or a connection with an academic institution. Align skills from across the organization to help in the effort. And adopt a clear roadmap and the rigor to stay on course
Where will you lead your organization in experimenting with new technologies this year?
If you liked this, you might also like:
- 5 Reasons Consumer Innovations Outpace the Enterprise
- 2011 CIO Agenda – A. M. Best’s BestDay Podcast
- Business Innovation or IT Innovation?