IT in the Old World and in the New World

Today I read two articles with advice for CIOs. First article headlines that CIOs should forget innovation and should focus on cost reduction and increase internal IT service. Second article states that innovation and entrepreneurial thinking is vital for IT leaders. The first article is based on a survey within Western European CIOs and the second one based on testimonials of innovation award-winning CIOs in the US. Both articles are published in respectable practitioners journals. What could this mean?

That practitioners do not read the academic literature on IS/IT? Why should they? Is there somewhere a coherent stream of IS research on innovation and information systems? And if so, what does it tell you on how to deal today with the IS function in organizations? Do we need cost cutters  or do we need innovators? We teach IT risk control management on the one hand and IT entrepreneurship on the other. IT/IS courses are almost completely vanished in most business schools, replaced with courses on business process management. ERP systems dominate in most large companies, leaving almost no more funds for new technology and initiatives. A clear answer or directive for CIOs is certainly not to be expected from the academia, no matter how hard they try to deliver relevant research.

The articles also show us that the appetite for risk is definitely different in old continent as compared to the new continent. Nothing new under the sun! Sometimes you should think that Europeans have developed an extra gene responsible for entrepreneurial risk aversion. The new world is so different when it comes to entrepreneurial risk taking. European CIOs have to operate with the constant burden of cost reduction. There is no room for experiments or slack management! No wonder that all successful innovative IT companies like Facebook, Cisco, Google, Verizon, Apple, LinkedIN,… of the last 10 years are coming from the new world. The old world can only show SAP as the nova star. Not really an innovator and soon maybe a red giant.

Why does Europe claim they have the best IT universities and still has no IT companies nor organizations with strategic IT visions? Is there not something wrong in our educational approach? Leadership is not something that is lectured in European universities and certainly no IT leadership. Rather we focus on mastering and controlling technology, but not using it! European CIOs should understand that cost reduction can never be a generic strategic choice unless you want to achieve cost leadership, but there is only room for one cost leader in every sector. Instead, there is so much room outside the company that can be occupied with new IT supported business models as shown by the new world if we only could get rid of our risk aversion gene!

jan devos


About jangdevos
I'm an IT/IS professor, a late Baby Boomer, married with Ann and father of Hélène and Willem, a Stones fan and interested in almost everything. I work at the UGent (campus Kortrijk), Belgium. My research domain are: IT Governance in SMEs, IT/IS Security, IT Management, IT Project Management, IT Trends and IT/IS failures.

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