The key challenges for any modern CIO are less about being cost-efficient and more about transforming the business and accelerating growth. Technology, albeit important, is just one part of this picture.

Innovation is in many ways the most powerful – and at the same time the most demanding – driving force in business. By welcoming and nurturing an innovative environment, businesses of all sizes are able to not only improve productivity and output, but also build resilient customer relationships and salvage battered brand identities.

We have collated 7 of the most relevant questions CIOs should ask themselves in order to successfully drive and harness the power of innovation in business.

1. What is the core problem?

All innovation starts and ends with solving problems. However, when evaluating the problems expressed by line of business, it often becomes clear that what is perceived as the main issue is in fact a symptom of another, underlying problem.

By performing an exercise where you simply ask “what is causing this problem?” and then ask the question again for the next level and the next, you will be able to track the problems back to one or several root causes which can be addressed as the underlying issues. This will then form the foundation for the choice of technology and solutions.

2. How can I reduce the risk?

Depending on the size and complexity of an organisation, embarking on an IT project can pose a huge risk – due to potential disruptions, unexpected costs and resource shortages. These risks should be mitigated in as many ways as possible. One of the most strategic ways to control risk exposure is to break large, costly and challenging projects into smaller, standalone phases with less risk involved.

3. How can I inspire innovation in the workplace?

As a leader in any department, you should accept accountability for ensuring the right conditions are in place for innovation to happen. This can sometimes take the shape of incentives or competitions, where individuals are rewarded for their contribution towards innovation. For the longer term, however, you need to work on building the necessary framework to stimulate team contribution. Factors such as stress, noise and disruptive environments will drastically reduce individuals’ ability to solve problems and work on improvements.

4. What technology can I implement to support innovation?

There is a wide range of tools available to encourage, facilitate and integrate innovation into your business processes. Many of these solutions fall under the software category of Idea Management, offering platforms for internal and external parties to contribute to the innovation progression. Some of the most popular solutions are:

5. How can I be a better listener?

For CIOs as well as other senior level managers, the ability to listen is not just a “soft skill”. Having an inquisitive mind is just the starting point, as it also needs to translate into an ability to register and reflect on input from other people. Identify who your main stakeholders are in the business. Who do you want to engage with and listen to? These people will not just be budget holders, but they could be the ones influencing decisions around strategy and development.

6. What does my Dream Team look like?

It’s hard, if not impossible, to innovate in isolation. As a CIO, you need to consider building a virtual support team for innovation around you. Try to involve people with various roles in the process, ideally spanning several departments. In their different ways of representing the business, they will allow for “cross-pollination” of ideas, where you learn from their respective processes. Find people who will support your initiatives while also offering the opportunity to pressure test them before launch.

Consider involving at least one of the following roles in your innovation Dream Team:

a) Customer liaison

b) Product expert

c) Market specialist

d) Business process specialist

e) Financial manager

7. Where can I go to learn?

As CIO, you are expected to stay up to date with the latest technology and the most modern frameworks and processes for IT development and management. However, you will also benefit from investing time and effort in your own development as a leader in strategic innovation. By scanning the news you will find examples of businesses who have achieved what you are trying to do. They may be in a completely different industry or geography, but there may be ways you could adapt and apply their innovation to your own business model to create something groundbreaking. Take the opportunity to join online groups or visit symposiums and seminars where you get the opportunity to ask peers for advice and guidance.

We have successfully worked with a wide range of businesses to provide them with fully Agile software development, offering solutions that are aligned with their unique innovative vision. Want to know more? Contact us today.