Balancing Innovation with Interference

Jason Sankey, CIO, Franklin County Clerk of Courts
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Jason Sankey, CIO, Franklin County Clerk of Courts

With the constantly evolving nature of information technology, from emerging trends to innovative breakthroughs, many organizations are keen to invest time and resources in Research and Development (R&D). While this is a worthwhile goal, the struggle of the IT experience today is how to deal with the impediments that slow progress. This reality will be detrimental to organizations if we, as IT leaders, cannot balance interference and innovation.

So, what is this interference? In my experience, it often comes in the form of trying to maintain essential organizational functions while finding the capacity to pursue initiatives that will revolutionize the way that our IT products and services provide business value. As Franklin County Clerk of Courts’ Chief Information Officer, as well as Vice President of the Ohio City/County Information Technology Association, strategic planning sessions tend to focus on such topics as cyber security, big data, mobile workforce, life in the cloud, and the other “usual suspects” of IT. Given the amount of discussion surrounding these subjects in various forums, we are not the only organizations focused on these trends. These are all important areas for exploration and growth, and as CIOs, it is critical to have a solid strategic agenda to tackle these initiatives. Take cyber security as an example: The landscape is evolving at such a rapid pace that we have to prioritize our engagement in counter-measures to minimize vulnerabilities. Is a new precedence being set where organizations are opting to pay ransoms to retrieve their compromised data? Should cyber insurance be a part of your technology roadmap? How often should you conduct a penetration test? How much of your budget dollars should you allocate annually towards cyber security? These questions certainly sound all too familiar, keeping some of us awake at night. But another underlying risk tends to draw my focus. How do I avoid becoming so consumed in satisfying basic organizational needs that my organization does not invest the necessary time, resources, and vision anticipating what tomorrow will look like for our consumers?

  ​As the technology roadmap changes, so does our support model 

This is where we need to adjust our thought process. Think about it in this way: Capital Markets, as with any industry, will continue to evolve–but this evolution will be driven primarily by technology. Consider the IT developments that have emerged in recent years. If we misplace our mobile device, even for a short period of time, we feel disconnected. Five years ago, however, this feeling of despair was not as acute. Remember how it was “ok” to forget your mobile device? Sure, you were disconnected, but the availability of other workarounds aided in the absence of the device. These days, we are moving towards what I refer to as “the immediate life” realized in technology. Today, if we left our mobile device behind how many of us would quickly turnaround and retrieve our life support? If our device takes an extended period of time to load–it’s a problem. If our tablet restarts in order to install updates, we see it as interfering with our productivity–again a problem. We all expect technology to be immediate as we donot have time to wait, and from a support perspective downtime is intolerable these days. Within this movement our clients will expect us to be at the front line of innovation to satisfy their demands of the immediate life.

What does this mean? Should you be worried? It depends. Will you be ready for the new era of investors seeking solutions to address their immediate life? With technology at the forefront, the future thought leaders, investors, and innovators have taken opportunities such as their technological “social media game” to the next level. It is not enough to only have information at our fingertips. We want the next wave of generational mobility that embeds enhanced social media outlets, the accessibility of mobile apps to handle all aspects of investment needs, and the availability of communication channels that do not require actual verbal communications–unless we are talking to Siri. Not so long ago, many of our website redesign planning sessions focused on ensuring our websites incorporate responsive design. Now not only is it an expected functionality, it is simply not enough. The next enhancement was to create a mobile version of a website to address user experience opportunities that responsive design could not accommodate. Again, this is no longer enough. Consumers prefer to leverage mobile apps geared towards providing customized solutions to satisfy their immediate life. And at some point this, too, will no longer be enough.

In considering IT human resources, how do we attract and retain the new wave of developers who will ultimately drive these innovations? As the nature of technology and the methodology surrounding R&D continue to evolve, organizations also must revolutionize the way in which their developers conceptualize and collaborate. When visitors come into our office, for example, they are welcomed at the sight of the open collaboration concepts we recently introduced. (Traditional government office configuration tends to echo an office layout of the last century.) As the technology roadmap changes, however, so does our support model. To keep up to speed with the new wave of talent, we realized the value of encouraging our technical staff to get out of their workstations and collaborate in open spaces. While these were new concepts, we needed to embrace these to shift our focus on innovation as a means of shifting our approach to technology.

The future of the way we retrieve information, the way we communicate, and, ultimately, the way we invest will continue to evolve at an extremely rapid pace. Our challenge will be to overcome how we tap into innovation to meet the evolving needs of our consumers while balancing the reality of interference.

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