IT innovation in 2006 focuses on customers

IT innovation rates high on the CIO radar in 2006, but it's not about buying new products and services; it's about using them to drive business change.

The changing online business model is a prime example. IT managers are predominantly innovating the ways customers deal with their companies online, not because their Web site or online business model is outdated. Without innovation, potential online customers will migrate to a better site.

Catherin Bennett, director of the IT Management Program at industry analyst IDC, said CIOs in 2006 are managing the risk of integration efforts in order to free up innovation funds.

"IDC's CIO research has revealed the theme for 2006 is 'regeneration, next generation'," Bennett said

Customer satisfaction, ensuring projects are on time and on budget, as well as ensuring systems are available and reliable still continue to be a part of keeping the wheels on, she said.

But return on investment (ROI) expectations, she said, require that most CIOs deliver on investments within a 24 month timeframe. "This can be a real challenge," Bennett said.

Mark Pavlides, general manager of distribution of information technology for British Airways Asia Pacific, agreed with the IDC research. He said all the airline's innovation plans for 2006 are tied up in creating a smoother online experience for customers.

Pavlides said most of the innovative IT projects for British Airways will all centre on external, customer-driven solutions.

"One of the major deliveries in 2006 is rolling out a better booking engine so passengers have a much easier process for booking flights; this is what our current IT spend is aimed: innovating through a better customer experience. Customers are not very forgiving if a Web page is not up to scratch," Pavlides said.

"We are also looking to use the technology behind the improved site internally, to re-purpose the technology for staff, because there is no point building the same technology a couple of times.

"The IT spend in 2006 is aimed at simplifying business and the biggest ways to innovate is via customer-facing applications and portals."

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