Global CIO: 'The New Polymath': 12 Reasons CIOs Must Drive Innovation

Industry pundit Vinnie Mirchandani offers a dozen insightful examples from his new book on why today's CIOs must excel at many things.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

May 21, 2010

4 Min Read

3. High-impact, small innovation teams
The CTO of BP, Phiroz Darukhanavala, describes how his small team—only 12 members—brings emerging technologies like sensory networks and predictive analytics to innovate business processes at refineries, tankers and other parts of its global reach. While they are more mainstream today, his sensory network projects started in 2004, and the predictive analytics ones in 2006. Importantly, most deliver significant, quantifiable business payback.

4. Next-gen data centers and clouds
The book profiles a case study on, which along with NetSuite and other cloud vendors, brought the polymath concept to IT. Unlike other software companies, for the last decade they have not just written code but also learned to run data centers, massively shared application management, and completed painless upgrades with little downtime. The book also profiles an interview with Mike Manos who describes how Microsoft built its Azure cloud infrastructure for massive scale (data centers with 200,000+ servers each) with the latest in cooling, provisioning and management technologies.

5. Global Delivery Models -- not just India
The book has a case study on IT services firm Cognizant, which delivers application, infrastructure and BPO services to client Kimberly-Clark , from an Argentina-based team. Another client, AstraZeneca, has services delivered from Hungary, while yet another client, Molina Healthcare, receives its Cognizant IT services from Phoenix, Arizona. Still other clients are served from the Philippines, and of course several from India. The book explains the tools and methods Cognizant has to deploy to "follow the sun" with consistent global-service quality.

6. Consumerization of technology
The book profiles how Southwest Airlines, which had reusable plastic boarding passes and in some ways was a technology Luddite a few years ago, and other companies have dramatically evolved to keep up with an increasingly savvy consumer who often has more technology than front-line employees.

7. Communities, Crowds and Collaboration
While many companies are still wary of social networks, the book shows how companies like Avon and Starbucks have started to monetize their networks. More impressively, models have been emerging for communities and crowds to become viable talent pools. The book describes the "genomes" of communities and crowds via the work that Thomas Malone and his colleagues have been doing at MIT.

8. "Arsonists" and disruptors
The book highlights several smaller firms that are helping cut out "empty calories" in technology spend, including Zoho, which is focused on the Microsoft Office market; MAXroam, focused on global mobile roaming; Rimini Street, focused on enterprise-application maintenance; and CartridgeWorld, focusing on printer cartridges and others. It also showcases SAP's attempts to disrupt the database market with in-memory applications, and discusses how Cisco and HP are disrupting each other in the data center.

Beyond IT, the book explores how Kleiner Perkins put together its impressive cleantech investment portfolio and how better understanding of genetics is helping personalize medicine. The book looks at technology-enabled innovation in 40+ countries from the cleantech industry in China to farms in Ireland to the back roads of Rwanda.

Andy Mulholland, Global CTO at Cap Gemini who also read an advance copy, summarized his reaction to the book: "On my first read, I was fascinated with all the case studies in the book. On my second slower, more-careful read, I am trying to figure out how to become a polymath myself."

Like Andy, I think most IT professionals will enjoy reading about their peers and how they use technology to dramatically reshape work, life and play in a world increasingly shaped by the new polymaths.

Vinnie Mirchandani is a former Gartner analyst and now runs a boutique advisory firm, Deal Architect focused on helping enterprises with technology strategy and writes two well read technology blogs. He can be reached at [email protected].

Never Miss a Beat: Get a snapshot of the issues affecting the IT industry straight to your inbox.

You May Also Like

More Insights