This month the Deloitte CIO Panel looked at how far innovation within businesses is being supported and driven by IT.

This month the survey shows companies are taking a reactive stance when it comes to innovation. An impressive 85 per cent of the CIOs surveyed undertake innovative projects primarily to keep up with the competition. The results also suggest innovation has slipped down the list of business priorities over recent years, as 62 per cent of CIOs said they were last involved in a “truly innovative” project between two and five years ago.

The Deloitte CIO panel defined “innovative” projects as being those that are largely related to new systems to support an operational function. However, there was a distinct lack of examples of business-led initiatives, that use IT in an innovative way to transform the way the company does business.

What is interesting is that many companies are now innovating at a deeper technical level, rather than a broad business level. But when we take a closer look at what is holding CIOs back, 62 per cent of those surveyed cited pressure on capacity within their team as a major barrier.

We believe that the impact of a reduced capacity in the IT function and insufficient resourcing is hampering efforts to develop tactical and strategic operations. All too often an over-stretched IT team’s first priority is to support day-to-day needs rather than looking to the future. But failing to keep ahead of the curve could mean smarter peers will get there first.

While the IT department continues to think about innovation only in IT terms, this “tunnel vision” will constrain the company’s ability to lead in its market. By taking a broader perspective, and communicating with the business, the CIO will allow technology to be a strategic enabler of business change. This approach will support the business in the long term and most importantly throughout periods of flux in the business.

More CIOs now have a position on the board, and are better placed to influence innovation. Combined with the advancement of web technology, which makes it easier than ever to innovate, today’s CIO has the power to develop the right cultural framework within and outside their own team. He or she must take steps to build this approach into their IT strategy to ensure they can take their place in the sun.

Five Step Guide to Building an Innovation Agenda

1. Ensure the correct business and IT governance body exists

2. Stop wasting resources. Cancel projects that aren’t aligned to the business strategy

3. Don’t undertake an IT project for the sake of it. Giving executives Blackberry’s isn’t innovation - it’s switching on a commodity

4. Make it quick. In IT terms, a two-year programme can be positively glacial

5. Define what innovation means to your business. Interrogate each project to check it fits your unique criteria

Stephen Mercer is a director and Phillip Everson is a Partner in consulting at Deloitte

If you are interested in joining the panel or would like to suggest a topic please email

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