Innovation in a COVID World: 4 Steps for CIOs To Get It Done

You want to launch new products, meet your customer’s needs, and grow the business. Here’s how.

Guest Commentary, Guest Commentary

March 31, 2021

4 Min Read
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Stepping outside your comfort zone is a sure-fire recipe for personal growth. The same goes for business. COVID-19 forced companies to use tech to adopt, reinvent, and innovate on the fly. Restaurants modified loyalty programs to reward contactless payment. Augmented reality lets customers virtually try on products. An airline recently ordered electric air taxis to help urban-area customers get to the airport. One way or another, businesses should use technology to cater to their customer’s needs.

But 56% of companies aren’t confident they can identify new revenue opportunities. By bringing together business strategy, creative experiences, and the right mix of technology (we call this BXT), leaders can fuel innovation, as consumers are hungry for change.

By working with the C-suite, and following these four steps, chief information officers can help businesses innovate quickly and create new revenue streams through products and services.

1. Really determine the need, don’t fake it -- then deliver it

Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen says 95% of product ideas fail, so the odds are daunting. Here’s the secret to joining that 5%:

To join that 5%, you’ll need to determine what your customers really need. During the pandemic, for example, it was the essentials. What is the pain point you’re solving for? This is an obvious question, but many fail to fully answer it before diving in and creating a solution. That’s why it’s important to have your systems in place in advance and ensure you can pivot quickly if and when you need to.

Look at the food delivery service that bought a salad-making robot company to provide faster, contactless dining options when people looked for less-human touch experiences. Or the automaker that began producing breathing apparatuses when ventilators were in short supply. All industries are ripe to evolve and innovate, be it a small turn or a full pivot.

Additionally, everything in our post-COVID-19 world is moving faster. You don’t have 18 months to wait for payback. Get your idea out into the market and then evolve it.

2. Get everyone involved (or close)

According to our 2020 Global Digital IQ research, 84% of companies that get payback on all their digital investments mandate collaboration and cross-functional work. And they act on ideas from every corner of the business.

Don’t approach buy-in as if you’re selling something. Think of your new process, service, or product as an ever-evolving draft. Get a broad, diverse group during iteration. Working in a BXT way brings people together -- from your greenest intern to senior leaders.

Last spring, we brought together a group of more than 200 team members from every part of our business for a virtual hackathon. Weeks later, we rolled out a product based on our collective idea. It never would have happened -- let alone so quickly -- without input from data architects, UX experts, safety and security masters, marketers, writers, and others.

3. Make it real with collaboration and tech

You’ve got a broad coalition. Now what? Make sure you have the right digital tools to work seamlessly on launching the idea, including a clear project management workspace that breaks to-dos into digestible sprints. Full transparency and visibility into who does what and when should also top the list. 

The methodology around product and services launches has changed, too. Always think fast. While the common crawl, walk, run ethos used to work, today it’s more like walk, jog, sprint. Instead of a limited pilot, consider launching a minimum viable product to a wider circle.

4. Don’t look back, you’re not going that way

Problems aren’t static. Neither are their solutions. It’s important to change as your customer’s needs do -- without a full-stop overhaul. The faster you adapt, the faster you can create new revenue streams or enhance what you’ve got.

Let go of the way things operated before COVID-19 and don’t look back. Take, for example, fitness classes that went virtual. People grew accustomed to pedaling faster or eking out more reps behind a screen. It was convenient and saved commute time. While gyms are reopening, many people still prefer at-home options. Hybrid offerings -- across countless industries -- are important as we adjust to changing risk tolerance.

Designed-to-pivot should be your mantra. Listen to your customers and add features based on their feedback.

Don’t make innovation a buzzword. Make it real with technology and tie it to your business goals. Evolve the experience with your customers’ needs, too. If you can solve problems faster -- with creativity -- innovation will become second nature. And growth is more likely to follow.


Tom Puthiyamadam leads PwC Digital and their Consumer Markets Consulting business. As the Consumer Markets consulting leader, he’s responsible for growth and reinvention of PwC’s travel, hospitality, consumer goods, and retail practice. As the Digital Product Leader, Tom created a new revenue model for PwC by driving the development and commercialization of digital product-based solutions. He also built the firm’s global Experience Centers.


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Guest Commentary

Guest Commentary

The InformationWeek community brings together IT practitioners and industry experts with IT advice, education, and opinions. We strive to highlight technology executives and subject matter experts and use their knowledge and experiences to help our audience of IT professionals in a meaningful way. We publish Guest Commentaries from IT practitioners, industry analysts, technology evangelists, and researchers in the field. We are focusing on four main topics: cloud computing; DevOps; data and analytics; and IT leadership and career development. We aim to offer objective, practical advice to our audience on those topics from people who have deep experience in these topics and know the ropes. Guest Commentaries must be vendor neutral. We don't publish articles that promote the writer's company or product.

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