May 19, 2020

Driving Innovation: The Changing Role of the CIO

Business leaders
Tony Willis, T-Systems
3 min
Driving Innovation: The Changing Role of the CIO

By Tony Willis, Sales Solutions Architect: T-Systems in South Africa

Considering that IT touches almost every aspect of business operations, the CIO and his/her leadership team are in the unique position to identify innovation opportunities across the enterprise and develop rapid and aggressive ‘digitalisation’ strategies.

Increasing the digital readiness requires a thorough understanding of the challenges, inefficiencies and opportunities in the organisation. In doing this, the CIO and his IT department can identify technology innovations with the potential to improve business performance – across a number of dimensions, including:

·         Increasing revenue/market share/customer base

·         Saving costs

·         Improving business agility

·         Enhancing customers’ experiences

·         Shortening production cycles or business processes

Regardless of whether we are considering innovation, invention or optimisation, the above five dimensions are generically applicable – which in its own right makes the frequently debated topic of “what is innovation” somewhat superfluous.

As long as one or more of the dimensions is being delivered on and a positive business case can be demonstrated, the business is generally interested. So, how does the CIO fulfil the goals of becoming a change agent, business partner, innovation champion, and ‘digitalisation’ advocate?

Over and above the various historical and modern approaches to innovation, we are experiencing two key activities that the CIO can drive to assist in achieving successful:

·         Using open innovation ecosystems to blend insights from other, seemingly-unrelated industries and fields of knowledge

·         Creating an environment within the organisation that facilitates collection of inputs pertinent to ideation, constant innovation and digitalisation

Cross-industry insights

The concept of open innovation ecosystems pulls together participants from a broad variety of research backgrounds (scientific, tertiary education, technology etc), together with business leaders from different sectors.

Fusing insights from these differing domains of knowledge generates new ideas, new approaches to solving problems, and opens up what previously would be considered as unlikely collaboration opportunities.

Speaking at a recent event in South Africa, Frans Johansson, international speaker and author of the best-selling book, “The Medici Effect”, discussed how true innovation is often found at the nexuses of unrelated fields.

Inspiration, he explained, often happens when an individual takes their resources, assets, knowledge and networks – and then connects them to something else altogether.

Diversity can fuel this – including diversity of business goals, perspectives, cultures, knowledge, genders, and ethnicities – and the powerful ideas that emerge when these worlds collide. The CIO is well-placed to encourage the organisation to embrace open innovation ecosystems, diversity, and collaboration.

Creating an environment for ideation

Perhaps the most important role the CIO can play inside his own organisation is that of an ‘innovation-enabler’: laying the foundational structures (along with executive colleagues from across the organisation) for innovation to happen organically, and sustainably.

Due to the touchpoints that it has with business at all levels of the organisation, the IT department is exposed to pain points of the business; those problems that cut all the way to the core of the business operations.

An approach to ideation that keeps business pain points ‘top-of-mind’, and encourages teams to find the answers to those problems (as opposed to developing innovations, and then looking for a problem to solve, to justify the innovation) provides business not only with potential disruptive innovation, but continuing incremental innovations as well.

Along with his leadership colleagues, the CIO needs to create a culture where ideation is encouraged and formally rewarded at every level. There are a number of ways in which local companies have established incentives and rewards systems to encourage ideas and participation.

The key, however, is in ensuring that the best ideas are then promoted into real-world projects and successful results deployed into the business, and that the original inventors are recognised for their contribution.

With the right visibility, this is a powerful motivator for others to start finding innovative solutions to their department’s challenges.

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Jun 11, 2021

G7 Summit guide: What it is and what leaders hope to achieve

3 min
Business Chief delves into what the G7 is and represents and what its 2021 summit hopes to achieve, in terms of sustainability and global trade

Unless you’ve had your head buried in the sand, you’ll have seen the term ‘G7’ plastered all over the Internet this week. We’re going to give you the skinny on exactly what the G7 is and what its purpose on this planet is ─ and whether it’s a good or a bad collaboration. 


Who are the G7?

The Group of Seven, or ‘G7’, may sound like a collective of pirate lords from a certain Disney smash-hit, but in reality, it’s a group of the world’s seven largest “advanced” economies ─ the powerhouses of the world, if you like. 

The merry band comprises:

  • Canada
  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • The United Kingdom
  • The United States

Historically, Russia was a member of the then-called ‘G8’ but found itself excluded after their ever-so-slightly illegal takeover of Crimea back in 2014.


Since 1977, the European Union has also been involved in some capacity with the G7 Summit. The Union is not recognised as an official member, but gradually, as with all Europe-linked affairs, the Union has integrated itself into the conversation and is now included in all political discussions on the annual summit agenda. 


When was the ‘G’ formed?

Back in 1975, when the world was reeling from its very first oil shock and the subsequent financial fallout that came with it, the heads of state and government from six of the leading industrial countries had a face-to-face meeting at the Chateau de Rambouillet to discuss the global economy, its trajectory, and what they could do to address the economic turmoil that reared its ugly head throughout the 70s. 


Why does the G7 exist?

At this very first summit ─ the ‘G6’ summit ─, the leaders adopted a 15-point communiqué, the Declaration of Rambouillet, and agreed to continuously meet once a year moving forward to address the problems of the day, with a rotating Presidency. One year later, Canada was welcomed into the fold, and the ‘G6’ became seven and has remained so ever since ─ Russia’s inclusion and exclusion not counted. 


The group, as previously mentioned, was born in the looming shadow of a financial crisis, but its purpose is more significant than just economics. When leaders from the group meet, they discuss and exchange ideas on a broad range of issues, including injustice around the world, geopolitical matters, security, and sustainability. 


It’s worth noting that, while the G7 may be made up of mighty nations, the bloc is an informal one. So, although it is considered an important annual event, declarations made during the summit are not legally binding. That said, they are still very influential and worth taking note of because it indicates the ambitions and outlines the initiatives of these particularly prominent leading nations. 


Where is the 2021 G7 summit?

This year, the summit will be held in the United Kingdom deep in the southwest of England, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson hosting his contemporaries in the quaint Cornish resort of Carbis Bay near St Ives in Cornwall. 

What will be discussed this year? 

After almost two years of remote communication, this will be the first in-person G7 summit since the novel Coronavirus first took hold of the globe, and Britain wants “leaders to seize the opportunity to build back better from coronavirus, uniting to make the future fairer, greener, and more prosperous.”


The three-day summit, running from Friday to Sunday, will see the seven leaders discussing a whole host of shared challenges, ranging from the pandemic and vaccine development and distribution to the ongoing global fight against climate change through the implementation of sustainable norms and values. 


According to the UK government, the attendees will also be taking a look at “ensuring that people everywhere can benefit from open trade, technological change, and scientific discovery.” 


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