business innovation-A recent CIO survey conducted by Deloitte reveals that 58% of CIOs believe that "helping in business innovation" is a core expectation of the IT organization. Unfortunately, the study also found that many CIOs struggle to understand their role and mandate.

One of the things that has changed for the better in recent years is how technology is enabling CIOs to help the business innovate and differentiate itself in the market, through new products and services, by streamlining operations or by responding faster to market opportunities than their competitors, said George Surdu, a veteran IT executive who is currently Chief Strategy Officer at HTC Global Services.

"The big sea change in the CIO role is a much closer relationship to the business and a much deeper business focus around utilizing technology to help the company differentiate itself," said Surdu. Surdu will be one of the featured speakers at HMG Strategy's upcoming 2018 Detroit CIO Executive Leadership Summit on June 8.

Surdu has seen plenty of changes with respect to the CIO's role in driving innovation. This includes how CEO expectations of the CIO's involvement with business innovation have evolved.

"Back in the mid-to-late `90s when I was at Ford, the CEO realized they had to make a major transformation in order to drive significant improvements in business processes. They turned to the CIO and their IT organization realizing they (IT) had end-to-end visibility of the major business processes across the entire company, including engineering, manufacturing, and sales and marketing," said Surdu.

CIOs also must foster a culture of innovation, both with their IT teams and with employees across the business. Only through innovation as defined by "continuous experimentation" can IT organizations help their company compete and differentiate itself in the market.   

"If the CIO doesn't have the hearts and minds of its people focused on the needs of the business with an inventor's eye, their results will materially miss the expectations of both internal and external customers" said Surdu. "You've got to understand the vision of the company and have your team aligned around that." This starts with the CIO building a vision and mission statement that's simple and understandable for all to grasp, he adds. 

When CIOs can communicate this vision along with ways that the IT team is meeting its objectives, the impact can be immense. "When you demonstrate to the IT team what they've accomplished, they'll become even more engaged and excited about their roles in driving business transformation," said Surdu.  

AT HTC Global Services, Surdu and his team are working with various parts of the company's business to apply digital transformation to streamline operations and reduce costs and is doing the same for many of its customers.

"Velocity is a powerful thing," said Surdu. "Speed and costs are important but I always say stay focused on speed. If you do that, it's going to become less expensive. You'll have less idle time. I've seen cost reductions and quality as a fundamental outcome of this focus."

Currently, Surdu sees cognitive computing, especially RPA, gaining traction in business across a number of different disciplines. "For instance, robotic process automation (RPA) can be applied in a call center where you can automate a number of mundane tasks. This allows companies to reduce costs by having fewer human agents while enabling those existing agents in the call center to focus on providing specialized, enhanced support to customers."

To learn more about George Surdu and other top-tier speakers at our upcoming 2018 Detroit CIO Executive Leadership Summit, click here.