How CIOs tap startups to drive innovation

CIOs are increasingly cozying up to the cutting edge, using Shark Tank-like competitions, reverse pitches, and speed dating to identify startups that will fuel innovation and transform the business.

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Restaurant chain TGI Fridays is rolling out a customer offering at its restaurants that none of its competitors has — at least for now. It’s an artificial intelligence-driven virtual bartender where guests can access an app from a smartphone or tablet and take a short quiz on what they’re in the mood for, the occasion, and their tasting likes and dislikes. The virtual bartender then suggests a unique libation. Perhaps most appealing of all, it can speed the process of ordering a drink at a busy restaurant.

In the highly competitive restaurant sector, it’s crucial to set yourself apart, and that means seeking out startups with leading-edge ideas like this one, says TGI Fridays CIO Sherif Mityas. “We want to be first, and we want to be innovative.”

Competitive advantage is just one of the motivations behind a growing trend by CIOs to look beyond traditional vendors’ new products and seek out startups that can fuel innovation. CIOs are finding that working with startups can help grow the organization both financially and technically. Startup competitions also bring tech talent to organizations and regions that need it, and can infuse a startup-mentality into IT departments. However, working with fledgling firms is not for the faint of heart. Organizations must have a strong stomach for risk, the willingness to fail fast and move on, and the time to invest in the process. CIOs offer the pros and cons of dancing on the cutting edge with tech startups.

The CIO mandate to drive growth

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