by Elana Varon

How to Plan the Future of Your Business? Dream

Mar 28, 20063 mins

It sounds impractical. Frivolous, even. But you have to dream about the future of your business.

I’m back. I wasn’t able to post last week because I was spending a good chunk of it reviewing applications for our 19th annual CIO 100 awards. Back in January, we asked companies to nominate their coolest projects—ones in which they used IT in innovative ways to deliver business value. It will be a few months until we announce the winners (in our August 15 issue. Here’s a link to what we did last year.). But I want to share a little bit about what I’m seeing:

First of all, there’s a lot of diversity in the use of IT to the business problems that applicants presented. Not so much in the technologies themselves—there are some leading edge uses of IT, not much that’s bleeding edge—but in how IT was used to create new business value. Using wireless technologies to enable workforce mobility isn’t a new idea, but it can become innovative when you use it to transform your work processes in ways that make you more competitive.

Secondly, the most interesting applications describe imaginative projects—the kinds of things that lead you to think, Cool, I never would have thought of that, rather than Someone should have done that before. As we delve more deeply into what the winning applicants did, it will be interesting to learn more about how they harness employees imagination and turn it into a beneficial system.

Part of the process, I suspect, is what June Drewry, the CIO at Chubb (not a CIO 100 applicant), talks about as a the socialization of the new ideas. Drewry says she goes to lots of outside meetings about innovation, hosted by vendors and consultants and the like. One message she’s taken back to the office is that “huge innovations have to cook over time. We can’t expect drastic underlying change to the way we do things.”

(In this story from FinanceTech, Drewry, a veteran insurance industry CIO, talks about her role at Chubb as a transitional one, preparing the groundwork for the next CIO, including the technology updates necessary for the company to stay flexible and competitive)

So Drewry talks up what she hears, with her IT staff and business colleagues. And keeps talking. The idea is to create a base of knowledge about trends. The next step is to get colleagues to think about what their dreams are for the business. “I don’t know what our dream is. I know what our strategies are.” They’re not the same thing. “It’s hard to get people to dream because it’s not really practical,” she says.