October 13, 2003

CIOs Need to Play Pivotal Innovator Role

This CIO.com article, "CIOs Poised to Play Pivotal Role in Creating an 'Innovator's Advantage'", is music to my ears and a must-read. Based upon an Accenture (f/k/a Andersen Consulting) survey and authored by Accenture partners, it sums up many of the points I've made over the past several years and is in sync with my philosophy regarding how law firms need to move ahead in an ever-increasingly competitive environment.

The first paragraph provides the current state of affairs for many organizations:

"Few would dispute that information technology (IT) is an important facilitator of innovation which, in turn, produces solid business benefits. Yet, paradoxically, the IT department is the least likely part of a business to be a primary source of innovation. That finding from a new Accenture study highlights the need for CIOs, not only to run effective IT operations, but also to be active participants in the development of the overall business strategy."

This part comes as no surprise to me whatsoever:

"It revealed that companies reporting a strong record of innovation also report that nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of their recent IT investments were successful at meeting their strategic objectives. By contrast, less innovative companies reported only a 28 percent success rate for IT investments. Indeed, more innovative companies report getting more value for money from IT and are more likely to see IT as a source of competitive advantage.

The study also confirms that more innovative companies see IT as an integral part of business strategy; innovators are far more likely to consider IT to a great extent when they are developing new business strategies than less innovative companies. In doing so, innovators consider the business capability that IT can deliver not just the IT alone."

In essence, no longer can IT just be considered the "infrastructure", a cost to be managed. Far too many opportunities are lost in that regime. Instead it must be cultivated. The firms that understand the concept that the synergies gained become much more valuable than the sum of its parts will ultimately be more successful on the whole.

This also ties in closely to my "enabler" construct. It is a fundamental shift in strategic and tactical thinking that requires shared commitment and responsibility by both the organization's top management and IT. CIOs need to be comfortable taking new ideas to management, who likewise need to be open-minded to encourage that level of trust so that the organization, as a whole, becomes more proactive and innovative. In other words, they need to become equal partners in their endeavors. A heading in the CIO.com article says it all: "Innovative Use of IT Raises Business Performance"

While all of this sounds great, cultivating the necessary change in culture is far from easy, especially in traditionally conservative organizations such as law firms. Some will be up to the challenge, and some will struggle only to see mediocre results.

Last, but not least, the CIO.com article provides a number of suggested approaches for IT departments. Bravo.

Topic(s):   Law Practice Management
Posted by Jeff Beard
Comments