Talking about innovation is easy. The real challenge is managing and supporting innovation in a modern corporate environment.
Hunter Jones is the CIO at Houston-based Cameron, a leading provider of flow equipment products, systems and services to worldwide oil, gas and process industries. I had a great conversation with him last week, and we spoke mostly about the key role of IT in facilitating innovation across the enterprise. Here’s a brief summary of what he told me:
Innovation is critical because you always want to be a step ahead. You’re always looking over the next horizon and trying to figure out where you need to be. A large part of my role is helping the company prepare for the future.
The role of IT is providing innovation for the business. Sometimes that means helping the business decide where innovation can have the most impact. Some areas of the business can benefit more from innovation than others. Everyone can’t be at the head of the class. That would be impractical.
In IT, we established innovation committees for our key business process areas – engineering, finance, sales, operations, supply chain, aftermarket, etc. Each committee is “sponsored” by an executive from a different part of the enterprise. That creates healthy levels of commitment, participation and buy-in.
The committees present their ideas quarterly to my executive steering committee. That ensures that we’re all on the same page in terms of priorities. The net result is that we bring innovation to the business more quickly, and with greater confidence.
Within the context of the innovation committees, IT serves as coach and facilitator to the business areas. The committees themselves form a practical framework for an enterprise-wide collaborative process that inspires trust. Higher levels of trust help the enterprise to move forward with greater speed, agility and confidence. Put all of that together and you have a competitive advantage.
The innovation process described by Hunter seems especially practical for large companies serving rapidly evolving global markets. One of the prime values of his approach is that its focus is more on the management of technology than on technology itself. As Hunter says, “It’s about IT bringing innovation to the business.”
I’m delighted that Hunter took the time to share his insight and his experiences.