My good friend Saad Ayub is SVP and CIO at Scholastic Corp., the world’s largest distributor and publisher of children’s books and a leader in educational technology and children’s media.
Through all of its channels, including school-based clubs and fairs, Scholastic sells one out of every two children’s books sold and distributes more than 350 million books in the US. With its global reach, it serves customers in more than 45 languages and in 150 countries. In addition to its many literary properties, Scholastic is the U.S. publisher of the phenomenally successful Harry Potter series, with more than 150 million of the books in print nationwide. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, published by Scholastic, is grabbing headlines as the first book in the trilogy comes to the big screen this month. The 92-year-old company also publishes classroom, parent and professional magazines, produces educational software, award-winning children’s TV shows, and mobile apps, extending the company’s popular brands across multiple media platforms.
Keeping track of such a diversified global business requires tremendous effort, especially from IT. I think it’s fair to say that Scholastic’s innovative approach to IT strategy is definitely a major part of the company’s ongoing success.
Saad was a panelist at the 2012 CIO Summit of America in January. Here’s a brief excerpt of the valuable insight that he shared with the audience:
Generally, when we talk about table stakes, we’re talking about how well the IT organization executes, but if you want to talk about bringing innovation to the table, then you need to look at four additional dimensions.
The first dimension is hiring. Is IT hiring people with the right skill sets? Do the people we hire understand cloud, social and mobile computing? Do they have the communication skills required to explain a great idea properly? Do they have the emotional intelligence – the EQ – to follow through successfully? Can they shift their focus from internal to external to leverage trends in fast-moving markets?
The second dimension is the organizational model. The classic IT organization is driven to build and deliver applications. But that doesn’t always address the business challenge. Can we change the organization to shift the focus from delivering applications to delivering business results?
The third dimension is changing our processes. Most of our processes are based around CMMI, Agile and/or ITIL, which brings us back to execution. How do we create processes that allow us to think outside the box, and innovate for the business? What mechanisms and feedback loops do we need to create that will monitor how much of business solutions IT is delivering vs the current approach of tracking application development life cycle.
The fourth dimension is transforming the organization and the process models so that IT can shift its focus from demand management to demand creation. Then you are really positioning IT to help the business drive growth.
I am genuinely impressed with how Saad clearly articulates the four dimensions of change required for true IT transformation and continuous innovation. I look forward to including a longer and deeper interview with Saad in my next book, Innovating for Growth and Value: How CIOs Lead Continuous Transformation in the Modern Enterprise.