What Indian CIOs Can Teach American Colleagues About Innovation

Last Updated Jun 2, 2008 9:05 AM EDT

IT departments in the US excel at showcasing emerging technologies such as RFID and mobile connectivity.

But in the more important area of using technology to propel business innovation, IT execs in India lead the way, says Forrester Research Vice President Navi Radjou. In a Harvard Business blog post, Radjou writes:

The Indian CIOs I met view themselves as change agents and strive to harness technology to continually transform their firms' products, services, processes, and even business models.
What does India know that the US doesn't? Radjou offers two insights.
  • IT execs in India often come from a business, not a technical background. "Many of them come from a finance or operations background and have held P&L responsibilities as general managers or business unit leaders."
  • Indian IT is focused on leveraging existing commercial applications, not building something new from the ground up. They hire fewer developers but more outsourcing professionals.
Reading Radjou I'm struck again by the continuing battle in the US to make the CIO an equal partner with the rest of the "Chiefs" in the C-Suite. A few years back Harvard Business School professors Richard Nolan and Warren McFarlan suggested that companies form IT governance committees, made up of independent members providing board-level IT oversight that is more heavily weighted toward strategy than technology. (McKinsey reports on the danger of substituting an IT governance structure for IT leadership.)

What do you see in your own organization? Is IT a critical partner in driving business innovation?

Side Reading
CIO Influence Waning; Tech Execs Need to Step Up (BNET)

  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.