Innovative CIOs strike back against digital disruption

CIOs from every industry are looking to outmaneuver startups by taking a page from the disruptor’s playbook to deliver innovative digital products and services.

Innovative CIOs strike back against digital disruption
Romolo Tavani / Getty Images

If there’s one thing CEOs fear these days, it’s being Ubered, the dreaded code word that describes how ride-sharing startups have shaken up ground transportation. The fear is so strong that the verb changes depending on the industry, from retail (, to real estate (WeWork), to hospitality (Airbnb), and beyond. But the common denominator for disruption remains consistent: startups that harness cloud platforms and mobile software to deliver digital services more efficiently than less nimble incumbents.

Such existential threats pose stiff challenges to established companies, but they also present opportunities for those willing to take risks and innovate, according to KPMG, which says that 56 percent of more than 200 executives responsible for innovation expect their company’s investment in innovation to increase from 2019 to 2020. In fact, enterprises that underinvest in innovation are putting themselves at a strategic disadvantage, KPMG noted in its recent Benchmarking Innovation Impact 2020 report.

"The cost of underinvesting in enterprise-scale innovation is high," wrote Fiona Grandi, KPMG national managing partner of innovation and enterprise solutions, in the report. "It can mean the difference between continued growth and obsolescence.”

Grandi adds that many companies are increasingly integrating innovation efforts with strategy and transformation initiatives.

Fueled by the urgency for top-line and bottom-line growth, CEOs are turning to CIOs to develop new digital products and services, says MuleSoft Founder Ross Mason, who sold his company to for $6.5 billion last year. "Without that air cover, it's hard to get certain things done," says Mason.

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