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Two ways to out-innovate your competition

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Disruptive technology is nothing new. As esteemed British politician, Benjamin Disraeli said in 1867, “Change is constant. Change is inevitable.” 


Since then, on the sea, steam has replaced sail, on the road, horsepower has overtaken horses, and did you know that by 1918, around 10 million telephones were in use in the United States, rendering Samuel Morse’s telegraph obsolete?


That disruption continues, with one key difference: it moves at a blistering pace.  With shortened technology cycles, the speed and unpredictability of today’s digital revolution is putting new pressure on businesses. C-suite leaders, deeply aware of this change, are looking to the CIO to help the company innovate at pace and increase operational agility. 


Delivering on these imperatives is easier said than done.  For the best chance of success, there are two key strategies that CIOs should employ: 1) try new ideas quickly, and 2) to borrow another Disraeli quote: “The secret of success is to be ready when your opportunity comes.”


Underpinning both these ideas, and ultimately helping businesses out-innovate their competitors, is the cloud. 


Try new ideas, fast

Peter Williams, Deloitte’s chief edge officer and former CEO of Deloitte Digital, speaking recently at one of Oracle’s Modern Business Summits defined innovation as trying new ideas. He proposed success requires unpacking the definition from back to front.  Start with ideas, see what’s new to you – it doesn’t have to brand new for the whole world, it is often adopting new things that are happening elsewhere but is new for you - and try it, and if needs be, fail fast. In short, experiment. 


The cloud makes it easier and faster to try, fail and move on to the next idea. It enables “as a service” buying models that reduce or even eliminate the time and cost for pricey investments, and you only pay for what you use. What’s more, cloud services are constantly updated with new features and functionality, constantly giving even more ability to innovate.  


Already, the value of this approach is being shown. One Frost & Sullivan survey of 800 senior executives in APAC found that enterprises using cloud computing are far more likely to have capitalised on international business opportunities, compared to those that are still primarily using on-premise systems.


Be ready

CIOs can further enable innovation by being ready to strike when the opportunity presents.  This requires a key shift: from builder of technology, to being a guide or digital master, setting direction, bringing together the best in cloud and leading the organization along the right path.

The cloud has given CIOs more technology building blocks at their disposal than ever before. From new mobile development capabilities around chatbots, to better cyber security based on AI learnings, and automated marketing tools that provide real-time, actionable insight into consumer engagement. These and other pioneering solutions provide a powerful platform for innovation, while also freeing up resources so that the business can focus on serving customers and beating the competition, rather than developing software in-house.


The challenge is there is so much choice, and so many new offerings.  Rather than needing to try to keep up-to-date with a range of current and emerging technologies, and becoming pigeonholed in any one trend, key is for the CIO to maintain a clear strategy and direction and take a modular approach.  This will offer them the best chance of keeping up with rapidly evolving technology cycles; in order to stand apart from other businesses in their sector, and support tech-led innovations across the business. 


For example, Asia’s fastest growing online fashion retailer, Zalora, uses cloud to engage in personalised communications with more than 10 million followers. Zalora’s regional head of customer relationship management, Joshua Tan, explained that evolving customer expectations created a new need for data-driven, individualised communications. Starting from a cloud-first infrastructure and sourcing the right cloud tools, Zalora quickly incorporated the new solution and could speak to customers in a more relevant and personal way.


In the end, CIOs should keep in mind that when it comes to innovation, there’s never a wrong time to start – especially as the pace of digital disruption continues to swiftly advance. With the power of cloud, CIOs now have the unique opportunity to speed up the try/fail cycle and take an agile and modular approach; delivering on the wishes of the C-suite, and positioning the business to quickly out-innovate the competition.
(The writer is Vice President and Cloud Evangelist at Oracle)

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