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John Soat
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The CIO And IP

Somebody's got to do it -- take a systematic approach to realizing the potential revenue encapsulated in the IP of new applications, research projects, and business processes. It should be the CIO.

Somebody's got to do it -- take a systematic approach to realizing the potential revenue encapsulated in the IP of new applications, research projects, and business processes. It should be the CIO.Over the weekend, The Wall Street Journal published an article titled "Think Strategically About Technology Licensing." Although it wasn't written specifically for CIOs, it should have been.

Companies are discovering that internally produced technologies can yield huge profits when licensed to third parties. What many of these companies still lack, however, is the ability to make licensing decisions an integral part of planning and strategy.

Who's in a better position in a company to plan out the intellectual property strategy than the CIO? When people think of IP, they tend to think of the new-products group or the R&D lab. But those groups have a very limited view of the enterprise; the CIO has a much wider, and more holistic, view of the entire corporation.

In a recent feature story I wrote called "The Evolution Of The CIO," I quoted M.S. Krishnan, chairman of business information technology at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, on the central position of the CIO role in the IT-driven enterprise.

In order to innovate rapidly, a company's business processes must be documented, understood, and governed, and where does responsibility for most of those processes lie in the modern-day, automated business organization? The CIO.

"It's IT that runs every business process today," Krishnan says.

Most CIOs are looking for ways to make more of an impact on their organization's bottom line. Taking responsibility for your company's IP strategy would be a good way to do that. Not an easy way, but a necessary and effective one.

Some CIOs may believe that intellectual property is outside the scope of their responsibilities, better left to the lawyers and the research scientists. If those people are already in charge of the IP strategy, so be it. Insert yourself -- you have valuable insights to share on the new applications and business processes being developed under your direction that may represent some of the most valuable IP the company is generating. If there's no one leading the IP charge in your company, step up.

As evidenced by some of the leading computer companies, such as IBM and Microsoft, which have made licensing their intellectual property into very profitable sidelines, IP is a revenue growth opportunity that companies can't afford to pass up.

While many companies have become aware of the relevance of technology licensing, others have not yet recognized its importance and are in danger of missing major opportunities. Integrating technology planning into corporate strategy will increasingly be seen not merely as an option, but as a necessity to keep up with competition.

Generating revenue and partnering opportunities from the intellectual property inherent in your company's IT initiatives isn't just a smart move for a CIO. It's a way to redefine the nature of the position and its relationship to business.

What do you think? What's your relationship to your company's IP strategy, and is there an opportunity for you there?

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