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Interview: How CIOs can boost innovation & creativity
Mon, 10th Jul 2017
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Scott Middleton of Terem Technologies, a sponsor company at the marcus evans Australian CIO Summit 2017, discusses how CIOs can help their organisation break the status quo to deliver innovation.

“CIOs need to deliver new, technology-driven innovation while maintaining the systems that keep the business alive. This means being ready for the inevitable disruption that has come or will come to their industry,” says Scott Middleton, chief executive officer, Terem Technologies.

“The challenge is that most organisations and people are excellently geared towards maintaining the status quo but new products that deliver real impact require people, processes and culture geared towards breaking the status quo,” he adds.

Terem Technologies is a sponsor company at the marcus evans Australian CIO Summit 2017, taking place in Queensland, Australia, 19 - 21 July.

How can CIOs help the business understand customers better?

CIOs can help the business and their own teams understand customers better by combining real-data with more real-world validation. Businesses have become obsessed with “big data”, which is a good thing, but this also provides a false sense of security.

Really understanding the customer means having direct interaction and more than that, realising that the only data that matters is data that is validated. They have to constantly prototype and test new ideas with real customers.

How can organisations create new value and be more innovative? How can they create “disruptive value”?

Get off whiteboards, spreadsheets, Visio, Word and Project then start creating things. The amount of time most organisations spend researching could have been put to much better use in the field validating key assumptions with real data.

Set up a team outside the organisation with a different set of rules and permission to charge forward, make mistakes, learn and, hopefully, deliver something completely different. But also give this team the air support it needs to navigate the political perils of large organisations.

Invest according to the impact you want to make. Facebook, Amazon, Google and Microsoft invest around 20% of their revenue on R-D.

What do the most innovative and creative companies do?

Looking for processes to improve creativity and innovation is the wrong place to start. This is exactly why most organisations completely fail at being innovative.

Organisations need to completely remove processes and allow people to operate autonomously. Only when you are close to a no-process-utopia can you consider putting in processes.

When you are ready for processes, it is a very straight forward discussion. Your smart autonomous people will easily solve this for you.

What should CIOs take into consideration with their technology platform?

For innovation, the best choice is the choice that gets you there the fastest. This means accepting a mix of technologies and platforms to begin with, then being ready for that mix to be constantly evolving. In order to move quickly you may use one technology stack to get a proof of concept in someone's hands, another for version 1 and then another for scaling.

What trends should CIOs in Australia focus on?

External innovation teams and artificial intelligence (AI). Teams that are either physically or spiritually outside the boundaries of the organisation hold a key to unlocking innovation within a CIO's team and the wider business.

These groups need to be external to really deliver new ideas that fly blind against an organisation's existing way of doing business.

AI presents an exciting opportunity for every organisation, especially when looking at internal processes and systems. The temptation is to think of it as something for the Googles of the world but this is far from the case.

AI is already delivering real benefits in all manner of scenarios and the key is not necessarily to invent new algorithms or the AI itself but to move early and take advantage of the next wave of automation before your competition does.

About the Australian CIO Summit 2017

The Australian CIO Summit is the premium forum bringing elite buyers and sellers together. The Summit offers enterprise and government chief information officers and IT solution providers and consultants an intimate environment for a focused discussion of key drivers for IT innovation.

Taking place at the RACV Royal Pines Resort Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, 19 - 21 July, the Summit includes presentations on aligning technology, upgrading capabilities and redefining processes, implementing the correct cloud model, rethinking IT organisational structures and navigating legacy systems.