How to make things work

By Vanessa Howard:

Two stories emerged recently which in their different ways reveal something about the – often complex – state of play between tech innovation, the role of CIOs and the need to align digital development with wider business strategy.

First is an advice piece from Ian Cox, a CIO turned consultant, who urges IT leaders to stop thinking like ‘an IT person’ and to learn to talk business with fluency.

His point is a sound one. There is little doubt that CEOs and CIOs talk a different language and the IT leaders that break out of the tech ghetto are those who can talk confidently to other execs and explain how tech will support the business, its brand and its plans for growth.

Yet disconnect is all too common and innovation does not guarantee business success. Take the recent story that Amazon has filed a patent in the US to allow consumers to authorize payment with via facial recognition – pay-by-selfie essentially. Exciting stuff yet that capability already exists – Microsoft created Windows Hello with options for face, fingerprint or iris recognition. It set out to eliminate the need for users to have multiple passwords and Microsoft hoped that its ease of use would help companies secure more sales.

That all sounds logical and yet companies and consumers have not adopted it. It is an example of how a new capability does not necessarily secure market share. Failing to capture the imagination of consumers and business can leave tech languishing until another player with an established offer – such as Amazon – sizes up a development as a natural brand extension and picks up the baton.

Tech alone is never enough. After all, Kodak did develop the digital camera and Sony failed to recognize why iPod was a threat to the Walkman. The key is to understand that tech is an enabler and must enhance existing processes but also be able to support longer-term goals. Only then is it possible to translate innovation into a working business reality.