Innovation vs. operations: A critical balancing act IT must master

The sweet spot between business innovation and operational excellence is elusive, but IT’s pandemic response has provided new skills and strategies for solving an age-old IT conundrum.

Innovation vs. operations: A critical balancing act IT must master
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It’s the age-old IT conundrum: striking the right balance between creating new capabilities and providing a reliable operational environment for the business.

The pandemic has cast this challenge anew, as IT organizations have faced the challenge of providing robust, reliable day-to-day operations while also applying technology to reimagine the way, well, everything is done. “The need for both innovation and operational excellence, working together, has never been higher,” says Hari Gopalakrishnan, CIO and managing director of client facing platforms at Bank of America. “We don’t believe we have a choice between the two.”

IT leaders and their teams are under pressure to accelerate digital transformations and maintain the IT stack amid the most challenging business conditions of recent memory. Seventy-six percent of IT leaders responding to this year’s State of the CIO survey agree that finding the right balance between business innovation and operational excellence is challenging.

“While operating a business is structured and easily measurable, innovation is much more organic and unstructured,” says Bob Wold, vice president of technology innovation at Trimble.

The good news? The two can be symbiotic. “Driving innovation and delivering operational excellence are a huge focus,” says Jeff Riehl, executive vice president and CTO of LexisNexis North America. “Innovation — internal and external — helps us grow faster and has an impact of our revenues. [It] drives the speed of innovation, accelerates time-to-market, enhances productivity, and improves reliability and quality.”

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