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CIO As Venture Capitalist: Technology Trends 2014

CIO as Venture Capitalist

This take on the Trend: CIO As Venture Capitalist was written by Megan Pydigadu, FD at Mix Telematics.

In the past, decision-makers have always moved IT to the side and classed it as ‘techie things’ that nobody understands. Today, IT has become a vital part of business and one that cannot sit on the periphery.

Of course, as a technology company (more specifically software as a service), we are in the fortunate position that there are a lot of developers working on our platform as we push services to clients that provide us with annuity income. The benefit of this is that we are in the fortunate position of being exposed to a variety of ICT trends that might or might not have a positive impact on the business.

But what of companies that are not as technology-focused as this?

For one, it makes the job of the CIO that much more challenging. At these organisations, the CIOs do not have the luxury of having similar technology-focused decision-makers who appreciate the potential of an emerging technology. They often struggle to convince the other executives about the business benefits of embracing something different when a previous technology implementation was only recently concluded.

For this to work there needs to be an integrated approach in terms of companies needing both technology and business elements. A close examination of internal structures in terms of the business systems and how technology is needed to enable that is required. It does not help matters that IT projects have historically run over time and budget.

So when it comes time to do technology implementations, the CIO needs to critically assess the cost and impact on business to show the other executives a return on investment. However, given the start-up culture that has permeated a lot of industries, companies are more forgiving of failure than in the past.

By focusing on the return on investment, this is where the venture capitalist part comes in. The CIOs need to keep a finger on the pulse of the latest innovation and determine which are the investments that will pay dividends and which are the ones to avoid. Once implementation has started, similar to an investment into a new business, the CIO needs to continuously monitor and assess the success of the project even if that means doing so on a monthly basis.

This makes extensive research even more important than in the past given the amount of new technology and innovation available to organisations. The CIO has to be careful to not get caught up in the hype and be patient. He or she needs to look at the business drivers of the technology and ultimately in how to tie it back into corporate strategy.

Technology such as the cloud, BYOD, and mobile have all proven their business potential when it comes to integrating with the organisation. South African companies are steadily embracing this and working on scenarios on how best to implement them. But what is the technology driver that is around the corner, what should companies be aware of? Inevitably, they will fall back on the CIO to provide them with that informed decision on where to invest their resources in.

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