The CIO stands at the intersection of a perfect storm of events as technology becomes an increasing force of change within the business. Connecting the dots between the business value of disruptive technology and the CEO’s most pressing challenges means the CIO is in a unique position to help drive organizational innovation.
In this presentation at the 2nd Annual ConNEXTions 2014: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange, Frost & Sullivan’s Richard Sear explored areas of change based on three specific challenges for a CEO: What is going to disrupt our business over the next five to 10 years, what could cause part or all of my business to collapse, and what could create transformation for our business or market?
Issues Driving the CIO's Future
Richard Sear, Global Vice President, Visionary Innovation, Frost & Sullivan
The key word these days is “change.” Companies need to adapt to ever more rapid changes so they can continue to survive and thrive. A lot of that change is related to technology, so CIOs have a unique position to offer their expertise to the CEO. For the future, Sear said, CIOs must think of themselves not as Chief Information Officers, but Chief Innovation Officers.
Sear made the prediction that Facebook, as we know it, will go out of business. Why? The interface does not foster human interaction in a 3D simulated environment, he said. It uses direct ads instead of indirect ads and does not appeal to our “humanistic” side.
According to Sear, Facebook and other portals like it have things backwards. Humans won’t adapt to technology – to be successful, technology must adapt to human habits. Humans have interacted with each other in similar ways for centuries, and Facebook and other technology built around human interaction will have to evolve to accommodate those habits.
Sear asked attendees to envision having coffee with other humans in a 3D simulated environment. Just as humans will continue to gather in groups, individuals will want technology that enables that.
Or how about trying on clothing with holograms? Online shopping could use innovative technology to simulate the tactile texture of a clothing item for the consumer to feel on a pad or other device.
Those are the types of directions technology will be moving. Over the next 15 years, Sear said, rapid prototyping and hyper-personalization will be the direction of technology innovation.
Technology leaders must help their organization’s chief executive understand those movements and how the company can thrive in that environment. From now until 2025, the CIO or CTO will be most valuable to the CEO if he or she speaks about mega-trends and business models, rather than individual products.
ACTION ITEM(S) TO IMPLEMENT
Sear said companies should make IT growth decisions based on an immersive 3D experience for customers. This mindset should be present during Research & Development – developers should consider all five senses. They need to see, feel, and think from the viewpoint of the end user.
Rapid prototyping and a focus on the individual are critical. Micro factory agility is required in the new environment, Sear said. The goal should be to personalize a product in three hours, rather than three days.
Companies need to spend time interacting with customers to understand how products are used and how they can be further personalized to better meet their needs.
Sear offered the example of a respirator mask developed by a leading brand. Senior executives conducted on-site testing in mine shafts in Chile where the product was being used. The goal was to understand the point of view of not just the decision makers purchasing the product, but also that of the ultimate end user.
The executives found that the workers had personalized the masks themselves by cutting slits into the mouthpiece and covering the opening with fabric so that they would be able to audibly communicate with each other. As a result, the company realized that for these customers, the product must include breathable fabric that allows for audible shouting. That insight was not anticipated by Research & Development.
Sear also discussed a Japanese Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) that he said challenged the pre-conceived notion of a car and used a hyper-personalization approach instead.
To achieve that change, IT innovators employed simulator metrics to discover the braking habits of drivers and other relevant inputs. For instance, some drivers may prefer a thicker steering wheel because of the measurements of their hands, which can be a tailored input. Other customers may have different preferences about the firmness of the upholstered seats, for example.
CIOs and CTOs are successful when they understand the CEO’s growth map. It’s important to envision and anticipate the needs, wants, and worries of the CEO for IT innovations. Tech leaders win the trust of the CEO if they are compassionate about what keeps the CEO awake and worried about the business.
To get executive buy-in, it’s critical to present technology concerns not as a compartmentalized worry, but as an issue that will affect the growth of the entire business.
In addition to hyper-personalization, technology is also moving more and more toward smart products, and CIOs and CTOs must help chief executives understand the difference between dumb vs. truly smart IT innovations.
Google Nest, Cisco, and Huawei are all competing in the “smart home” space. Increasingly, customers will expect their smart house to communicate with their smart car to coordinate, for example, the opening of the garage door.
The smart house will also measure biometrics of each member of the household as she or he enters. When the wife and kids arrive, the house will be able to adjust to a temperature previously agreed upon by the group.
Smart also has potential for all kinds of other products, Sear said, For example, a smart bandage could change color depending on information gathered about the wound. Smart water pipes could automatically shut off if a contaminant is detected. These devices won’t just monitor information, but will also take action according to protocols pre-set by humans.
The business environment, technology capabilities, and customer needs are changing fast. CEOs need help from partners that can help anticipate and adapt to those changes. Offering that insight will help CIOs and CTOs not only showcase the value of IT within the organization, but also help the company succeed in the future.
For more valuable information from ConNEXTions 2014, order your copy of Frost & Sullivan's Executive MindXchange Chronicles, a unique collection of all the key take-aways and best practices discussed at the event.