Leadership Strategies

Why Organizational Innovation Demands Metric and KPI Dashboards

Fuel the most important feature of your organization's innovation and evolution
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Does external stress accelerate organizational innovation? Ask three colleagues and you might get five different answers. Ultimately, no matter how strongly held your individual opinions are, you will probably fall back on the conclusion that individual outcomes are situationally dependent; in other words, your mileage will vary.

When seeking to better model complex human outcomes like innovation, many of us have turned to biological analogs; that is, we might compare organizational innovation to biological evolution. As far as organizational innovation goes, the general consensus is that human innovation proceeds at a more or less even pace but that the adoption of innovative solutions has been uneven and driven by a variety of external factors. According to The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1969, within the field of biological evolution, the debate has been even more intense with Salvador Luria and Max Delbrück being awarded a Nobel Prize in 1969, for work published in 1943, that found “organisms under stress have a higher mutation rate, even though they are not dividing.”

More recently, as mentioned in Does Stress Speed Up Evolution?, in 2018, after “more than two decades of experiments with the bacteria E. coli and most recently human cancer cells, Susan M. Rosenberg, a molecular biologist at Baylor College of Medicine, is challenging that central tenet of evolutionary theory. According to Rosenberg, and colleagues like Robert H. Austin, a physicist at Princeton University, organisms have evolved mechanisms that enable them to drive their own evolution in times of stress. Environmental pressure can boost mutation rates rapidly, even in cells that are not dividing, enabling them to adapt more quickly to new conditions. “Stop insisting that all mutations are random and evolution is slow is the entire story,” Austin says.’

So, in April 2020, Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, explains in his article, 2 years of digital transformation in 2 months, “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months,” was that real or puffery? Well, some two years later, the stark value that digitization of organizational processes has brought is legion. Be it retail, medical, manufacturing, government, supply chain optimization, or customer service, many examples can be cited of how digital transformation has accelerated innovation and enabled organizational continuity in the face of the most significant disruptions witnessed, worldwide, in decades.

Increasingly, the conversation around digital transformation is expanding to embrace the concept of “digital first,” in which businesses assume digitization as the basis for any new opportunity or solution to a problem, and analog counterparts take a back seat, if they even exist at all.   

Against this backdrop, information technology, IT, is no longer a tool we use to “enable” employees; it is how we transact our daily activities with virtually everyone within an organization interacting with suppliers, customers, marketing, operations, etc. At IDC, we describe this phenomenon across a constellation of nine Future Enterprise practices detailing the C-Suite agenda for the major disciplines within an organization, from Operations to Trust to Digital Infrastructure.

And, as organizations worldwide strive to cope with the strains and opportunities our digital-first future presents, it’s evident these Future Enterprises require a digital competent, Future IT, organization.

For CIOs and IT leaders striving to deliver an enterprise-wide technology platform, one of the critical imperatives is to systematically deliver an objective and relevant suite of metrics and KPI performance dashboards, tuned not to operational IT department outcomes but tailored to the diverse constituencies across the organization because information technology is now the channel we use across the enterprise. After all, if we cannot measure what has happened across the enterprise we will struggle to agree on what happened across the enterprise!

Digital performance metrics and KPI dashboards are critical requirements powering our organizations as we are challenged to adapt more quickly to shifting circumstances. They are a necessary feature of our organization’s innovation and evolution – not an afterthought. By 2023, we will look back on those digitally enabled organizations that have thrived, and those Future CIOs heralded as instrumental in that success, and a common denominator will be that they instantiated a suite of metrics and KPI dashboards, tailored to different functions and roles, with the common purpose of providing tailored, practical, outcomes-oriented data to guide the day-to-day decisions that facilitated superior organizational outcomes. We dive deeper into the business-impact KPIs that drive digital transformation in IDC’s new eBook, “Forging Business-Impact KPIs for the Digital-First Enterprise”. Click the button below to download the eBook and discover how to set realistic milestones that are measured and successfully achieved is the foundation to build the next set of capabilities in a digital-first enterprise.

Joe guides business and technology executives leveraging technology to achieve innovative and disruptive business outcomes. He presents at more than 40 CIO executive summits worldwide, annually; speaking to senior business leaders and technology executives on technology transformation strategies. He is a research agenda leader and facilitator for 75+ analysts publishing dedicated research for IDC’s CIO and technology buyer clients. His research enables clients to create preemptive business and technology strategies grounded in sound financial practices and a comprehensive understanding of competitive ecosystems. Joe empowers IT leaders to deliver strategically-aligned organizational development and talent management plans. A skilled executive coach and change agent, Joe works with clients to foster executive intrapreneurship in enterprise-class organizations.