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Gimme Five: Industry Veteran and Advisor Rick Roy on the Role of IT Innovation

Rick Roy is a 34-year veteran of the technology industry and a strategic advisor to AHEAD. Throughout his career, he’s served as CIO and peer advisor to large enterprises in financial services, automotive, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and professional service industries. He is currently Managing Partner of RER Advisors.

AHEAD’s EVP of Customer Success and CMO, Tom Pohlmann sat down with Rick to get his perspective on the state of digital technology in the enterprise.

We’re bringing their conversation to you in a four-part Gimme Five interview series covering digital transformation, innovation, the role of infrastructure in both, and the imperative to deliver better software faster in the enterprise. This third blog in the series covers IT innovation.

Tom: CIOs want to innovate. How can CIOs and their teams strategize around and build innovation initiatives?

Rick: When I was serving as CIO, our strategy was, ‘How can we use technology to innovate for customer experience?’ Technology can be used to provide customers with the ability to conveniently do something they couldn’t do before. The goal is to create one of those moments where a customer thinks, “Gee, I didn’t know I needed that but now that I’ve tried it, I really like it and will use it again.”

In terms of actually building innovations, I think the best approach is to use prototypes and proofs of concept. Start small, see what’s possible, get some traction, and scale up before committing major resources to an innovation initiative.

Tom: How can CIOs fund their innovation initiatives?

Rick: Self-funding projects in their early stages allows for a lot more experimentation. Don’t ask for money to innovate—find the money on your own through active cost optimization and management. Invest your savings into early innovation, and when you find an initiative that has legs, then you can ask for funding through more traditional channels within the company.

Tom: How can CIOs keep the savings you mentioned from being absorbed by the CFO or just hitting the bottom line?

Rick: The best way to do it is with a strong, communicative relationship between the CIO and CFO. Say the CIO develops a cost-savings program to run inside of IT with a goal of saving 10%. They can negotiate with the CFO that half of that savings (5%) would go into innovation initiatives to help the company grow and the other 5% can go back to the bottom line. A business-focused CFO is going to take this offer.

Read more from our series with Rick:

Part 1 on Digital Transformation

Part 2 on IT Innovation