How Decision Intelligence Gives CIOs Time to Innovate

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The modern CIO gains a competitive advantage by using cognitive technologies for enterprise automation.

Much like the infrastructure that supports our daily movement around the globe, information technology (IT) requires continuous maintenance – particularly in the early years of the 2020s as we enter an era of perpetual disruption.

The Golden Gate Bridge serves as an excellent metaphor. There’s a common misperception that the Golden Gate Bridge has to be repainted every seven years. In actuality, the painting occurs continuously to protect the 1.7-mile steel span from the corrosive effects of salty air, roadway pollutants, age, and the sun. The entire process is a Herculean task costing hundreds of thousands of dollars and untold hours each year.

In many ways, IT operations are a lot like that. Executives frequently bemoan the fact they spend far too much time and money maintaining systems left to them by their predecessors. Indeed, operating costs made up approximately 71 percent of IT budgets in 2017, according to Gartner.

The trouble with focusing so much attention on the business problem of this technical debt is that CIOs can’t spend as much time as they would like on innovation, which is why many are considering Decision Intelligence technology.

Applying a New Kind of Technology

Decision Intelligence technology leverages artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to sift through vast amounts of data located in various digital locations. It then indexes and analyzes that information to predict outcomes, make recommendations, and handle many time-consuming repetitive tasks.

In IT terms, this new technology promotes operational efficiency by effectively allowing enterprises to automatically streamline processes, monitor for potential breakdowns, apply fixes, and more efficiently facilitate the flow of accurate and actionable data throughout companies.

More to the point, this process improvement permits CIO organizations to offload maintenance work to machines so they can spend more time doing what they do best – innovating.

Unfortunately, many CIOs think they are already doing that by digitally transforming. However, no matter how many times you merely rearrange things, you’re still only making the best out of what you have.

Putting Technical Debt in its Place

To rise above servicing technical debt you must change how your business works, operates, and reaches decisions. And it all starts with recognizing and acknowledging the differences between technical debt and true innovation.

If you find yourself saying, “We have a data quality problem,” “Our data is so siloed we can’t do what we want with it,” or “We first have to upgrade existing systems and software to newer versions,” it’s time to reevaluate your situation.

The same is true when most or all of your staff is buried in ERP, CRM, data lake, cloud migration, digital transformations, and other projects. What you should be doing is deploying AI and ML technology to service that technical debt more efficiently, so you don’t have to.

For example, if government transportation authorities could come up with a more weather-resistant version of the International Orange paint used on the Golden Gate Bridge, they might not have to employ so many painters to maintain it as often each week. Instead, they could reallocate those workers and funds to accelerate other promising innovations.

Similarly, if you view AI and ML as your improved “paint,” you can focus on other emerging technologies that might help your business do a better job of tracking and understanding customer sentiment in order to provide them with differentiated brand experiences.

Digital Fitness Leads to Innovation

CIOs can also utilize Decision Intelligence to help their companies anticipate, address, and stay digitally fit in the face of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA). This is a critical capability because 90 percent of enterprises have had to confront disruptions – such as operating cost pressures, political upheavals, leadership turnover, and adverse regulatory interventions – that affected their businesses, according to Gartner. Yet only a quarter were “fit enough” to come out ahead in the end.

The fittest of companies deploy technologies such as Decision Intelligence to ensure they don’t let opportunities slip through their hands like grains of sand. For instance, the larger a company gets, the more difficult and time-consuming it becomes to balance supplies with demand.

Now, factor in the types of supply chain challenges that have become commonplace since the global Covid-19 pandemic. Ideally, you’re tracking needs for all your products in every market you serve at a granular level. But if you want to watch 12,000 products in 5,000 cities, it’s not humanly possible.

To cope, companies manage supplies regionally. This works to a certain extent, but it does not allow them to stock up to meet actual in-market demand. Nor does it grant the ability to send products just-in-time to warehouses and markets in need rather than to storage facilities and areas where there isn’t a need.

With cognitive technology implementation, CIO organizations can step outside of their normal IT boundaries and take on broader, more strategic responsibilities within their organizations. It gives them the time to do so and helps augment decision making to overcome technical debt and spur innovation.

You don’t have to continually paint that bridge. By applying a new kind of paint – Decision Intelligence – atop legacy systems, it’s possible to alleviate any shortcomings and help your business become technically fit through intelligent machines. It just takes a desire to shed old habits and the ability to focus on the true meaning of innovation.

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