How To Create A Transparent, Sustainable Food Supply Chain

Dr. Volker Keiner

Today’s farmer is in a tight spot. On one hand, the farm needs to produce a profit and run efficiently. On the other, consumers are demanding transparency and sustainability in farming. Digital transformation may seem like something that happens in other industries, but industry giants such as Cargill and John Deere are proving digital business transformation can lead to success in agriculture as well.

As our population grows, farms that embrace precision agriculture can see excellent gains. What kind of gains? Our research has found that early adopters are seeing an average 9% increase in revenue, 26% increase in profitability, and a 12% increase in market value.

Building transparency in the food supply chain

As communication improves, we’re seeing more impact in our industry from consumer opinion from food recalls, demand for locally sourced foods, and increased supply chain transparency. From ice cream to salad dressing, recalls are causing serious concerns for consumers and problems for agricultural production. Today’s consumers want farm-to-fork transparency to ensure their food safety. They’re also more aware and concerned about agricultural practices and how their food was produced. Many consumers are happy to pay more for food that is proven to be sourced using fair trade practices, which require the farmer to follow sustainable farming practices. But how do you build food traceability to that level?

Smallholder farming has answered this question in one fashion with the growing trend of direct marketing by farmers to the end consumer. The farmer creates a deep, one-on-one relationship with the consumer, who they see at farmers’ markets, on CSA days, and in the local community. This trend has been driven by society’s demand for further transparency in the food supply chain.

But clearly, this approach isn’t the answer for global agricultural supply chains. Consumers cannot maintain one-on-one relationships with all the farmers that produce input for their food, which provides a level of transparency while automating most of the communication needed.

Hyperconnectivity helps provide information, captured by digital farming solutions and processing practices, from the farm to the end consumer. It offers consumers the information they need, from the seeds and inputs used to the processes performed. It also eases the effort of maintaining so many one-on-one relationships. This process also affects the commodity markets because traders are limited as mixing and blending products impacts traceability.

Creating a sustainable agribusiness supply chain

Side by side with transparency is sustainability. The world’s population is expected to approach 10 billion people by 2050, which will require a 70% increase in food production. It’s no surprise that scarce resources such as water and arable land are becoming more valuable.

Additional transparency and networking also provides opportunities to optimize and increase the efficiency of food supply chains by reducing waste. It exceeds government and NGO scrutiny, affecting increasing and constantly changing regulations on farm operations, processing,and traceability. Digital transformation decreases the investment cost of transparency in the food supply chain: As more businesses digitalize, they can provide more information at a lower cost to the end consumer through mobile apps and QR codes. This level of transparency helps protect agribusiness and improves efficiency in farm operations.

Sustainable farming provides opportunities to improve yields while also preserving the environment. Precision farming is one area where technology and sustainability intersect, because inputs are used only where they are needed, reducing water, fertilizer, and fuel use. In California’s ongoing drought, for example, precision agriculture is expected to reduce water usage on farms by 25%.

Fresh water supply is significant concern for sustainable agriculture. Today, 80% of the world’s arable land is watered exclusively by rainfall and produces 60% of the world’s plant-based food. The remaining 20% is irrigated and produces 40% of the world’s plant-based food. As aquifers sink to record lows, the use of irrigation falls into a bad light. Precision agriculture can better match appropriate crops to soil and climate conditions and help protect our limited clean water supply. Such opportunities provide exciting opportunities for creativity and digital entrepreneurship in farming.

Another area where sustainability can play a role is in helping maintain and preserve the family farm. Family farms are becoming rarer as younger generations realize the challenges of profitability and leave in search of better opportunities. Precision farming limits inputs, automates tasks, and helps slow or eliminate the loss of experienced operators. This in turn boosts profitability, making the business of farming more appealing to younger generations.

Digitalizing agriculture improves transparency and sustainability. Fully 90% of executives recognize the impact the digital economy has on their business. Only 15% are creating a plan of action to adapt to these changes. Where will your agribusiness supply chain fall in this range? Will you get ahead of the curve or be left behind?

To learn more about digital transformation for agribusiness, click here.


Dr. Volker Keiner

About Dr. Volker Keiner

Volker Keiner is a solution manager for commodities in general and for the agribusiness at SAP. As part of the Industry Solutions team for agribusiness and commodity management, he is driving, supporting, and positioning new SAP solutions for commodity trading, commodity logistics, farm to fork, and digital farming. He is working with various customers and partners in these areas.

Three Ways Digital Transformation Is Disrupting The Metals Industry

Jennifer Scholze

The metals industry is at a crossroads. It faces decreasing global demand, trade flow disruptions, widening workforce skill gaps, and declining resource quality. These challenges have hurt profits and reduced capital investments. The metals industry is ripe for change – and digital transformation is leading the way.

Stefan Koch, global lead for metals in the mill products industry business unit at SAP, recently spoke about the future of the metals industry on the S.M.A.C. Talk Technology Podcast. Koch addressed the three major ways digitization will change the industry. Machine learning will simplify production processes and streamline operations. Virtual reality (VR) will enable virtual plant operations, creating new business models. Blockchain will enable verified material tracking for purchases like green (recycled) steel. Together, these technologies can disrupt everything from extraction to production to sales.

1. Machine learning simplifies production processes, predicts quality outcomes

“Smart machines” are not a new addition to the metals industry. The industry already relies on sensor data to monitor machine performance and maximize uptime. For most companies, however, that’s the current extent of this data utility.

“It’s still very often that you see this island of information,” says Stefan Koch on the S.M.A.C. Talk Technology Podcast. “Somebody thinks of production. Another one thinks of, “Oh yeah, that’s my customers, that’s my sales.” In the future, everything will need to go together and work together in an integrated way.”

Machine learning will allow companies to do more with their data, optimizing everything from materials sourcing to process adjustments. For example, a company could link systems across multiple operations and operators. This company could then use machine learning to either eliminate or automate redundant processes like invoicing.

Koch predicts that machine learning will also enable more advanced metal production capabilities that are cost-effective and high-value for the end customer. Presently, identical production processes may still yield slightly different finished products. These differences are due to naturally occurring material variances. Machine learning will allow companies to “look into the future” and predict quality outcomes down to the slightest variation. Producers could then pre-assign products to specific customers, delivering greater value and increasing customer satisfaction.

2. Virtual reality enables remote plant operations and value chain control

Will metal companies of the future still own physical deposits? Perhaps not, says Koch. On the S.M.A.C. Talk Technology Podcast, Koch notes that some metal companies are already moving away from asset ownership. These companies are “contracting production, resources, logistics, and materials” in a bid to control the value chain.

Consider, for example, a company that shares tasks with suppliers in other countries. This company could use virtual reality contacts to enable repair and control. The company could also use virtual reality to exchange or integrate data, boosting collaboration across the value chain.

Koch predicts that virtual reality will play an important role in streamlining remote plant operation. “These are concepts we see already picking up.”

3. Blockchain guarantees supply chain validity and authenticity

A blockchain is a tamper-proof distributed ledger that maintains a historical record of all data. Since this record is independent of a central authority, it is inherently resilient. Algorithms enable continuous verification and validity calibration. Data can be signed, timestamped, and immutably recorded in the blockchain. Blockchain can then provide essential transaction validation and purity verification, guaranteeing authenticity.

Koch predicts the metal industry will use blockchain to “provide faster and more rapid ways to authenticate materials.” In the recycling industry, for example, not all parties involved communicate with one another every day. The lack of a closed loop supply chain creates authentication challenges. In fact, Koch characterizes the current metal recycling supply chain as “a pretty random list of partners who interact on a long timeframe.” Blockchain solves this challenge by providing an immutable authenticity guarantee at each step.

Why the future of metals depends on digital transformation

Digitization is more than using predictive maintenance to maximize machine uptime. It’s about disrupting outdated processes and creating new business models.

The World Economic Forum predicts that, by 2025, digital transformation will create more than $425 billion of value for the mining and metals industry. Companies that embrace digital transformation will be best positioned to capitalize on this value creation.

To learn more about how digital transformation is disrupting the metals industry, listen to the S.M.A.C. Talk Technology Podcast with Stefan Koch. Learn how to bring new technologies and services together to power digital transformation by downloading The IoT Imperative for Energy and Natural Resource Companies.


Jennifer Scholze

About Jennifer Scholze

Jennifer Scholze is the Global Lead for Industry Marketing for the Mill Products and Mining Industries at SAP. She has over 20 years of technology marketing, communications and venture capital experience and lives in the Boston area with her husband and two children.

Can CIOs or CTOs Accept the New Role of Innovation or Transformation Agent?

Mukesh Gupta

CIO and CTO discuss new roleRecently, Dan Burrus wrote a couple of blog post for Harvard Business Review, where he expects that CIOs and CTOs to embrace new roles within their organizations. He expects and the CIOs should embrace the role of chief innovation officer and CTOs to embrace the role of chief transformation officer.

I do agree that this is an unprecedented opportunity, the current times requires organization to find ways to foster innovation, I don’t agree that every organization needs to start on a transformation journey. There are industries that are currently at the cusp of major transformations (Print media, automotive, retail). Organizations in these industries will need to re-invent themselves so that they continue to stay relevant in the new age. However, I don’t believe that this transformation will be led by the CTO. Nor do I believe that CIOs will lead the innovation efforts of the organization.

Though we would expect the CIOs and the CTOs to understand, advocate and embrace the technological revolution  is happening (ever increasing bandwidth, connectedness, processing power and storage; 3D printing; the maker movement; and Big Data and its impact (SoLoMo), mostly it is not the case.

My experience with the  CIOs and CT’s is very different and while they understand all of these changes happening all around them, most of them have not been able to connect them all back to their businesses. Most of these executives have risen to their roles from within their departments. This also means that their knowledge about their entire business is not as much as you would need in order to be able to take up such a role.

This has also been the reason that there are not many CIOs or CTOs that have gone on to become CEOs or enter the board rooms.

Also, in my opinion, Innovation is not something that you can drive from one office and succeed. Innovation needs to be everybody’s business. You need to create a culture where you expect people to keep exploring new things, challenging the assumptions behind standard operating procedures, etc. This can’t be one man’s responsibility. The moment you appoint a Chief Innovation Officer, that becomes his baby, which then kills the spirit of innovation.

Similarly, business transformation responsibility lies with the CEO. He is supposed to understand the business in its entirety. The moment this becomes someone else’s responsibility, the result of the transformation effort will be a disaster waiting to happen. This is also the reason so many of the transformation efforts fail.

The role of the CIO or the CTO should be to constantly keep exploring what is happening outside of the organization. Identify potential technological breakthroughs, newer business models that new technology can enable,  that can have an impact on their business (both good or bad)  and bring it back to the organization.

Another role that a CIO or the CTO can play is one of glue. They are probably the only team in an organization that touches & connects every department within the organization. What happens if they go one step further and become the people who break silos within the organization. This does require them to develop new skills like networking, understanding of the different facets of the business,  different perspectives of the people within each department and thereby the ability to find the common ground. All this can help them be the glue that keeps everyone connected and the hammer that breaks the silos whenever they creep up.

I don’t see them leading Innovation or transformation efforts anytime soon. However, they can be the spark that ignite the people to take one the journey.

Do you think that CIOs and CTOs will take up the chief innovation officer and chief transformation officer roles anytime soon? Why? Do share your thoughts by commenting below.


Darshini Dalal

About Darshini Dalal

Darshini Dalal, a technology strategist with Deloitte Consulting LLP, has deep implementation experience with complex large-scale technology transformations. She leads Deloitte's U.S. Blockchain Lab, and focuses on creating immersive experiences to help clients understand not only the applications but also implications of blockchain technology across a variety of business issues that plague today’s transaction fabrics. Darshini helps clients define their vision statement and translate this vision to reality by designing the next generation of systems and platforms.

Can CIOs or CTOs Accept the New Role of Innovation or Transformation Agent?

Mukesh Gupta

CIO and CTO discuss new roleRecently, Dan Burrus wrote a couple of blog post for Harvard Business Review, where he expects that CIOs and CTOs to embrace new roles within their organizations. He expects and the CIOs should embrace the role of chief innovation officer and CTOs to embrace the role of chief transformation officer.

I do agree that this is an unprecedented opportunity, the current times requires organization to find ways to foster innovation, I don’t agree that every organization needs to start on a transformation journey. There are industries that are currently at the cusp of major transformations (Print media, automotive, retail). Organizations in these industries will need to re-invent themselves so that they continue to stay relevant in the new age. However, I don’t believe that this transformation will be led by the CTO. Nor do I believe that CIOs will lead the innovation efforts of the organization.

Though we would expect the CIOs and the CTOs to understand, advocate and embrace the technological revolution  is happening (ever increasing bandwidth, connectedness, processing power and storage; 3D printing; the maker movement; and Big Data and its impact (SoLoMo), mostly it is not the case.

My experience with the  CIOs and CT’s is very different and while they understand all of these changes happening all around them, most of them have not been able to connect them all back to their businesses. Most of these executives have risen to their roles from within their departments. This also means that their knowledge about their entire business is not as much as you would need in order to be able to take up such a role.

This has also been the reason that there are not many CIOs or CTOs that have gone on to become CEOs or enter the board rooms.

Also, in my opinion, Innovation is not something that you can drive from one office and succeed. Innovation needs to be everybody’s business. You need to create a culture where you expect people to keep exploring new things, challenging the assumptions behind standard operating procedures, etc. This can’t be one man’s responsibility. The moment you appoint a Chief Innovation Officer, that becomes his baby, which then kills the spirit of innovation.

Similarly, business transformation responsibility lies with the CEO. He is supposed to understand the business in its entirety. The moment this becomes someone else’s responsibility, the result of the transformation effort will be a disaster waiting to happen. This is also the reason so many of the transformation efforts fail.

The role of the CIO or the CTO should be to constantly keep exploring what is happening outside of the organization. Identify potential technological breakthroughs, newer business models that new technology can enable,  that can have an impact on their business (both good or bad)  and bring it back to the organization.

Another role that a CIO or the CTO can play is one of glue. They are probably the only team in an organization that touches & connects every department within the organization. What happens if they go one step further and become the people who break silos within the organization. This does require them to develop new skills like networking, understanding of the different facets of the business,  different perspectives of the people within each department and thereby the ability to find the common ground. All this can help them be the glue that keeps everyone connected and the hammer that breaks the silos whenever they creep up.

I don’t see them leading Innovation or transformation efforts anytime soon. However, they can be the spark that ignite the people to take one the journey.

Do you think that CIOs and CTOs will take up the chief innovation officer and chief transformation officer roles anytime soon? Why? Do share your thoughts by commenting below.


Jennifer Scholze

About Jennifer Scholze

Jennifer Scholze is the Global Lead for Industry Marketing for the Mill Products and Mining Industries at SAP. She has over 20 years of technology marketing, communications and venture capital experience and lives in the Boston area with her husband and two children.

Can CIOs or CTOs Accept the New Role of Innovation or Transformation Agent?

Mukesh Gupta

CIO and CTO discuss new roleRecently, Dan Burrus wrote a couple of blog post for Harvard Business Review, where he expects that CIOs and CTOs to embrace new roles within their organizations. He expects and the CIOs should embrace the role of chief innovation officer and CTOs to embrace the role of chief transformation officer.

I do agree that this is an unprecedented opportunity, the current times requires organization to find ways to foster innovation, I don’t agree that every organization needs to start on a transformation journey. There are industries that are currently at the cusp of major transformations (Print media, automotive, retail). Organizations in these industries will need to re-invent themselves so that they continue to stay relevant in the new age. However, I don’t believe that this transformation will be led by the CTO. Nor do I believe that CIOs will lead the innovation efforts of the organization.

Though we would expect the CIOs and the CTOs to understand, advocate and embrace the technological revolution  is happening (ever increasing bandwidth, connectedness, processing power and storage; 3D printing; the maker movement; and Big Data and its impact (SoLoMo), mostly it is not the case.

My experience with the  CIOs and CT’s is very different and while they understand all of these changes happening all around them, most of them have not been able to connect them all back to their businesses. Most of these executives have risen to their roles from within their departments. This also means that their knowledge about their entire business is not as much as you would need in order to be able to take up such a role.

This has also been the reason that there are not many CIOs or CTOs that have gone on to become CEOs or enter the board rooms.

Also, in my opinion, Innovation is not something that you can drive from one office and succeed. Innovation needs to be everybody’s business. You need to create a culture where you expect people to keep exploring new things, challenging the assumptions behind standard operating procedures, etc. This can’t be one man’s responsibility. The moment you appoint a Chief Innovation Officer, that becomes his baby, which then kills the spirit of innovation.

Similarly, business transformation responsibility lies with the CEO. He is supposed to understand the business in its entirety. The moment this becomes someone else’s responsibility, the result of the transformation effort will be a disaster waiting to happen. This is also the reason so many of the transformation efforts fail.

The role of the CIO or the CTO should be to constantly keep exploring what is happening outside of the organization. Identify potential technological breakthroughs, newer business models that new technology can enable,  that can have an impact on their business (both good or bad)  and bring it back to the organization.

Another role that a CIO or the CTO can play is one of glue. They are probably the only team in an organization that touches & connects every department within the organization. What happens if they go one step further and become the people who break silos within the organization. This does require them to develop new skills like networking, understanding of the different facets of the business,  different perspectives of the people within each department and thereby the ability to find the common ground. All this can help them be the glue that keeps everyone connected and the hammer that breaks the silos whenever they creep up.

I don’t see them leading Innovation or transformation efforts anytime soon. However, they can be the spark that ignite the people to take one the journey.

Do you think that CIOs and CTOs will take up the chief innovation officer and chief transformation officer roles anytime soon? Why? Do share your thoughts by commenting below.


Neil Patrick

About Neil Patrick

Dr. Neil Patrick is a Director of SAP Centre of Excellence for GRC & Security covering EMEA. He has over 12 years’ experience in Governance, Risk Management and Compliance (GRC) & Security fields. During this time he has been a managing consultant, run professional services delivery teams in the UK and USA, conducted customer business requirements sessions around the world, and sales and business development initiatives. Neil has presented core GRC and Security thought leadership sessions in strategic customer-facing engagements, conferences and briefing sessions.

Can CIOs or CTOs Accept the New Role of Innovation or Transformation Agent?

Mukesh Gupta

CIO and CTO discuss new roleRecently, Dan Burrus wrote a couple of blog post for Harvard Business Review, where he expects that CIOs and CTOs to embrace new roles within their organizations. He expects and the CIOs should embrace the role of chief innovation officer and CTOs to embrace the role of chief transformation officer.

I do agree that this is an unprecedented opportunity, the current times requires organization to find ways to foster innovation, I don’t agree that every organization needs to start on a transformation journey. There are industries that are currently at the cusp of major transformations (Print media, automotive, retail). Organizations in these industries will need to re-invent themselves so that they continue to stay relevant in the new age. However, I don’t believe that this transformation will be led by the CTO. Nor do I believe that CIOs will lead the innovation efforts of the organization.

Though we would expect the CIOs and the CTOs to understand, advocate and embrace the technological revolution  is happening (ever increasing bandwidth, connectedness, processing power and storage; 3D printing; the maker movement; and Big Data and its impact (SoLoMo), mostly it is not the case.

My experience with the  CIOs and CT’s is very different and while they understand all of these changes happening all around them, most of them have not been able to connect them all back to their businesses. Most of these executives have risen to their roles from within their departments. This also means that their knowledge about their entire business is not as much as you would need in order to be able to take up such a role.

This has also been the reason that there are not many CIOs or CTOs that have gone on to become CEOs or enter the board rooms.

Also, in my opinion, Innovation is not something that you can drive from one office and succeed. Innovation needs to be everybody’s business. You need to create a culture where you expect people to keep exploring new things, challenging the assumptions behind standard operating procedures, etc. This can’t be one man’s responsibility. The moment you appoint a Chief Innovation Officer, that becomes his baby, which then kills the spirit of innovation.

Similarly, business transformation responsibility lies with the CEO. He is supposed to understand the business in its entirety. The moment this becomes someone else’s responsibility, the result of the transformation effort will be a disaster waiting to happen. This is also the reason so many of the transformation efforts fail.

The role of the CIO or the CTO should be to constantly keep exploring what is happening outside of the organization. Identify potential technological breakthroughs, newer business models that new technology can enable,  that can have an impact on their business (both good or bad)  and bring it back to the organization.

Another role that a CIO or the CTO can play is one of glue. They are probably the only team in an organization that touches & connects every department within the organization. What happens if they go one step further and become the people who break silos within the organization. This does require them to develop new skills like networking, understanding of the different facets of the business,  different perspectives of the people within each department and thereby the ability to find the common ground. All this can help them be the glue that keeps everyone connected and the hammer that breaks the silos whenever they creep up.

I don’t see them leading Innovation or transformation efforts anytime soon. However, they can be the spark that ignite the people to take one the journey.

Do you think that CIOs and CTOs will take up the chief innovation officer and chief transformation officer roles anytime soon? Why? Do share your thoughts by commenting below.


Catherine Lynch

About Catherine Lynch

Catherine Lynch is a Senior Director of Industry Cloud Marketing at SAP. She is a content marketing specialist with a particular focus on the professional services and media industries globally. Catherine has a wide international experience of working with enterprise application vendors in global roles, creating thought leadership and is a social media practitioner.

Can CIOs or CTOs Accept the New Role of Innovation or Transformation Agent?

Mukesh Gupta

CIO and CTO discuss new roleRecently, Dan Burrus wrote a couple of blog post for Harvard Business Review, where he expects that CIOs and CTOs to embrace new roles within their organizations. He expects and the CIOs should embrace the role of chief innovation officer and CTOs to embrace the role of chief transformation officer.

I do agree that this is an unprecedented opportunity, the current times requires organization to find ways to foster innovation, I don’t agree that every organization needs to start on a transformation journey. There are industries that are currently at the cusp of major transformations (Print media, automotive, retail). Organizations in these industries will need to re-invent themselves so that they continue to stay relevant in the new age. However, I don’t believe that this transformation will be led by the CTO. Nor do I believe that CIOs will lead the innovation efforts of the organization.

Though we would expect the CIOs and the CTOs to understand, advocate and embrace the technological revolution  is happening (ever increasing bandwidth, connectedness, processing power and storage; 3D printing; the maker movement; and Big Data and its impact (SoLoMo), mostly it is not the case.

My experience with the  CIOs and CT’s is very different and while they understand all of these changes happening all around them, most of them have not been able to connect them all back to their businesses. Most of these executives have risen to their roles from within their departments. This also means that their knowledge about their entire business is not as much as you would need in order to be able to take up such a role.

This has also been the reason that there are not many CIOs or CTOs that have gone on to become CEOs or enter the board rooms.

Also, in my opinion, Innovation is not something that you can drive from one office and succeed. Innovation needs to be everybody’s business. You need to create a culture where you expect people to keep exploring new things, challenging the assumptions behind standard operating procedures, etc. This can’t be one man’s responsibility. The moment you appoint a Chief Innovation Officer, that becomes his baby, which then kills the spirit of innovation.

Similarly, business transformation responsibility lies with the CEO. He is supposed to understand the business in its entirety. The moment this becomes someone else’s responsibility, the result of the transformation effort will be a disaster waiting to happen. This is also the reason so many of the transformation efforts fail.

The role of the CIO or the CTO should be to constantly keep exploring what is happening outside of the organization. Identify potential technological breakthroughs, newer business models that new technology can enable,  that can have an impact on their business (both good or bad)  and bring it back to the organization.

Another role that a CIO or the CTO can play is one of glue. They are probably the only team in an organization that touches & connects every department within the organization. What happens if they go one step further and become the people who break silos within the organization. This does require them to develop new skills like networking, understanding of the different facets of the business,  different perspectives of the people within each department and thereby the ability to find the common ground. All this can help them be the glue that keeps everyone connected and the hammer that breaks the silos whenever they creep up.

I don’t see them leading Innovation or transformation efforts anytime soon. However, they can be the spark that ignite the people to take one the journey.

Do you think that CIOs and CTOs will take up the chief innovation officer and chief transformation officer roles anytime soon? Why? Do share your thoughts by commenting below.


Ken Tsai

About Ken Tsai

Ken Tsai is the global VP and head of database and data management at SAP, and leads the global product marketing efforts for SAP’s flagship SAP HANA platform and the portfolio of SAP data management solutions. Ken has more than 20 years of experiences in the IT industry, responsible for application development, services, presales, business development, and marketing. Ken is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley.

Can CIOs or CTOs Accept the New Role of Innovation or Transformation Agent?

Mukesh Gupta

CIO and CTO discuss new roleRecently, Dan Burrus wrote a couple of blog post for Harvard Business Review, where he expects that CIOs and CTOs to embrace new roles within their organizations. He expects and the CIOs should embrace the role of chief innovation officer and CTOs to embrace the role of chief transformation officer.

I do agree that this is an unprecedented opportunity, the current times requires organization to find ways to foster innovation, I don’t agree that every organization needs to start on a transformation journey. There are industries that are currently at the cusp of major transformations (Print media, automotive, retail). Organizations in these industries will need to re-invent themselves so that they continue to stay relevant in the new age. However, I don’t believe that this transformation will be led by the CTO. Nor do I believe that CIOs will lead the innovation efforts of the organization.

Though we would expect the CIOs and the CTOs to understand, advocate and embrace the technological revolution  is happening (ever increasing bandwidth, connectedness, processing power and storage; 3D printing; the maker movement; and Big Data and its impact (SoLoMo), mostly it is not the case.

My experience with the  CIOs and CT’s is very different and while they understand all of these changes happening all around them, most of them have not been able to connect them all back to their businesses. Most of these executives have risen to their roles from within their departments. This also means that their knowledge about their entire business is not as much as you would need in order to be able to take up such a role.

This has also been the reason that there are not many CIOs or CTOs that have gone on to become CEOs or enter the board rooms.

Also, in my opinion, Innovation is not something that you can drive from one office and succeed. Innovation needs to be everybody’s business. You need to create a culture where you expect people to keep exploring new things, challenging the assumptions behind standard operating procedures, etc. This can’t be one man’s responsibility. The moment you appoint a Chief Innovation Officer, that becomes his baby, which then kills the spirit of innovation.

Similarly, business transformation responsibility lies with the CEO. He is supposed to understand the business in its entirety. The moment this becomes someone else’s responsibility, the result of the transformation effort will be a disaster waiting to happen. This is also the reason so many of the transformation efforts fail.

The role of the CIO or the CTO should be to constantly keep exploring what is happening outside of the organization. Identify potential technological breakthroughs, newer business models that new technology can enable,  that can have an impact on their business (both good or bad)  and bring it back to the organization.

Another role that a CIO or the CTO can play is one of glue. They are probably the only team in an organization that touches & connects every department within the organization. What happens if they go one step further and become the people who break silos within the organization. This does require them to develop new skills like networking, understanding of the different facets of the business,  different perspectives of the people within each department and thereby the ability to find the common ground. All this can help them be the glue that keeps everyone connected and the hammer that breaks the silos whenever they creep up.

I don’t see them leading Innovation or transformation efforts anytime soon. However, they can be the spark that ignite the people to take one the journey.

Do you think that CIOs and CTOs will take up the chief innovation officer and chief transformation officer roles anytime soon? Why? Do share your thoughts by commenting below.


Tina Gunn

About Tina Gunn

Tina Gunn is the content marketing manager for the Enterprise Americas team at SAP Concur. Tina earned her degree in Journalism from the University of Washington and brings her experience in content strategy and digital marketing to SAP Concur. When she’s not creating thought leadership and sales enablement content, Tina writes fiction and screenplays of the horror and sci-fi genres.