Disrupters in Food and Agriculture

Danielle Beurteaux

Old MacDonald Has Some Code 10101

The United Nations Population Fund estimates that the global human population will number 9.6 billion by 2050, which raises a critical question: how will we feed all those people? Efficient food production is essential. Startups are developing technologies that use data to shepherd resources and increase yields in an environmentally sustainable way.

Micro GC

sap_Q316_digital_double_disruptors_images1The UN Food and Agricultural Organization estimates that pests and diseases ruin 20% to 40% of global crop yields. The sick plants are practically sending out an SOS. A team at the Georgia Institute of Technology has created a device equipped with sensors that can “smell” the volatile organic compounds that are emitted by plants under attack and are unique to each disease.

The device—a small, square box designed to be mounted on a stick—incorporates a micro gas chromatograph (micro GC), an instrument for analyzing chemical compounds. It can quickly detect the ailment and send results to a smartphone app. Farmers using a micro GC would be able to easily and cheaply detect disease before it gets a foothold in their crop.

The team is testing the device in peach orchards at the USDA’s Southeastern Fruit and Tree Nut Research Laboratory in Byron, Georgia, and is working on integrating the device with robots that can gather and analyze samples then deliver the results as they travel through fields.

CropX

sap_Q316_digital_double_disruptors_images3About 70% of the world’s renewable freshwater resources go to agriculture. But farmers can waste water when they irrigate fields unnecessarily. “Internet of Soil” startup CropX is applying analytics to this problem. The CropX adaptive irrigation system uses sensors to collect data for agricultural water management.

The company uses USDA soil maps and its own patented software to analyze soil types and recommend how many sensors to deploy in a field. The sensors are buried in the soil at strategic locations determined with help from a GPS-enabled smartphone app. Farmers can access water data from the sensors using cloud-based software and determine whether they need to irrigate the area. The sensor will even text updates to indicate soil moisture levels and temperature.

Are You Really Going to Eat That?

Food security is achieved when people have access to plentiful, nutritious, and safe food. But how do we know if food is healthy and free of bacteria? New devices offer quick, inexpensive, and accurate ways to analyze nutrients and detect pathogens—enabling healthier diets and reducing incidence of food-borne illnesses.

Food Spectrometer

sap_Q316_digital_double_disruptors_images7What’s in our food? The MIT Media Lab, design firm IDEO, spectrometer company Ocean Optics, and retailer Target are collaborating on a technology that could answer this question for consumers while they’re shopping. The food spectrometer is a handheld device that analyzes light radiation to identify a food’s chemical and molecular makeup. A complementary “food fingerprint” database that is still being developed will help consumers use the food spectrometer to determine the nutritional value, freshness, caloric value, and even taste cues of specific produce items. The device is being tested at two of Target’s distribution centers.

Veriflow

sap_Q316_digital_double_disruptors_images10According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pathogens in food consumed in the United States in 2014 made 13,246 people sick, sent 712 to the hospital, and killed 21. Yet conventional commercial food testing can be time-consuming and expensive, especially for small producers. Invisible Sentinel’s Veriflow device aims to make the process more efficient, faster, and affordable. Veriflow uses proprietary technology to identify DNA and reveal  whether contaminants, such as E. coli bacteria, are lurking in food. It delivers results in three minutes and doesn’t require a trained scientist to use it.

Digitally Delicious

In the future, food might be prepared differently than it is now. It might look different, too. Commercial food producers are looking at innovations that incorporate technology to craft fresh, efficient, and sometimes mind-blowing meals.

Foodini

sap_Q316_digital_double_disruptors_images12Will this device be the next microwave? Natural Machines is bringing 3D-printed food to commercial kitchens with Foodini. The unit’s “open capsule model”—the only one on the market right now—enables chefs to fill the US$2,000 printer’s stainless steel capsules with fresh ingredients rather than prepackaged components. Up to five capsules can be used at a time to assemble multi-ingredient dishes such as pizza. Foodini can help chefs complete repetitive prep tasks, like making pasta or cookies, as well as realize intricate custom creations. The company is currently developing and testing a version that can cook what it prints.

Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.


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.


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.


Kevin Jinks

About Kevin Jinks

Kevin Jinks is Vice President & Partner / Industrial Sector SAP Leader for IBM Global Business Services. With more than 22 years of IT consulting and client management experience, he has extensive knowledge in ERP systems, architectural design, system development and implementation management for major clients globally.

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.


Anton Kroger

About Anton Kroger

Anton Kroger is an Energy and Natural Resources industry solution specialist for SAP based in Australia. Anton has worked in the resources sector for 16 years and has field operations and management experience, both locally in Australia and internationally. He now works with Energy and Natural resources companies across Australia and New Zealand to help them run better, more innovatively and imagine new ways of doing business. He is an advocate for clean energy and resources and believes that innovation is critical to the future of this industry. Anton believes that despite the disruption taking place in the industry today there is still a lot of opportunity for existing companies in the future.

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.


Paul Dandurand

About Paul Dandurand

Paul Dandurand is the founder and CEO of PieMatrix, a visual project management application company. Paul has a background in starting and growing companies. Prior to PieMatrix, he was co-founder of FocusFrame, where he wore multiple hats, including those of co-president and director. He helped position FocusFrame as the market leader with process methodology differentiation. FocusFrame was sold to Hexaware in 2006. Previously, he was a management consulting manager at Ernst & Young (now Capgemini) in San Francisco and Siebel Systems in Amsterdam. Paul enjoys photography, skiing, and watching independent films. He earned a B.A. degree in Economics from the University of California at 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.


Markus Steer

About Markus Steer

Markus Steer is an advisor with SAP & experienced leader for Digital Transformation to connect people, things and businesses to run the world better. He helps CEOs and Biz leaders to define their vision and leverage digital trends to transform their company. He provides guidance to CTOs and Enterprise Architects on end-to-end architecture design. Connect with Markus at www.linkedin.com/in/markus-steer-90b2b02a/.

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.


Thierry Audas

About Thierry Audas

Thierry Audas is a senior director of Product Marketing with SAP and focuses on business intelligence and analytics. He works with SAP customers to help them better understand how SAP solutions help organizations to transform all their data, the foundation of a digital enterprise, into insight to drive innovation and create business value. Thierry has more than 20 years of experience in the BI and analytics field and has held various senior roles in presales, consulting, and product management.

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.


Karen McDermott

About Karen McDermott

Karen McDermott is Global Head of Financial Services Industries Marketing and Communications at SAP, responsible for driving the growth of SAP's value proposition as a technology provider, trusted business partner, and thought leader for the financial services industry.