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Corporate innovation is a balancing act. Beyond juggling the needs of the core business unit and the innovation lab, aligning your company for new products requires taking a hard look at your business. Though this starts with identifying structural roadblocks to innovation that exist within your organization, enterprises need to learn how to mitigate or eliminate the tensions that hold them back. This often starts by building bridges between business and technology.

Eliminate Disputes Between Tech and Marketing

In the modern world, CMOs and CIOs can make powerful allies if they’re properly aligned. CIOs often hold the reins when it comes to enterprise IT systems and technology decisions, which can have great impact on new lines of business and the creative freedom which innovators require.

Even though some enterprise companies have begun embracing a lean startup mentality, most have been slow to wake up to the new reality that technology has shifted transactional power to their customers. In recent years, nearly every product or service company has become a technology provider, adding new strains to the responsibilities of IT. 

From a resources standpoint, IT departments have managed the transition to consumer-facing digital experiences remarkably well. Modern products are typically secure, functional and efficient. They don’t, however, always deliver value to customers. Where many CIOs fall short – and where a strong partnership with marketing can deliver huge results – is the ability to put a functional, if imperfect, product in front of real users and quickly find a product that can support business growth.

CIOs have become increasingly tasked with driving new enterprise innovation, yet they too often have to balance innovation within the strict boundaries of maintaining IT infrastructure and compliance requirements. On the other hand, marketing leaders are often afraid to commit large budgets to promoting potentially unpolished products under the core brand. Faced with these challenges and opportunities, CMOs and CIOs can be powerful allies, but there’s a better way to drive innovation forward.

Alex Gonzalez, of Creative Growth Ventures, shares 4 steps for companies looking to focus on innovation:

  • Establish a clear vision for innovation within your enterprise. Without a true north built around the profit centers of the business, innovators will always struggle to gain traction and credibility across the organization.
  • Balance and align marketing objectives with the tolerance for risk. This balance gives corporate innovators the runway to reach those objectives with short-term deliverables, while setting the stage for long-term, breakthrough innovation.
  • Innovators and executives need to learn the fine art of compromise, which starts with trust.
  • Change the way innovation projects are measured. If technology leaders are only measured on cost and revenue, they have little incentive to allow innovators to truly pursue new ventures. If innovation projects are held less accountable to typical business metrics, innovators are free to get messy with new projects.

That freedom starts at the top of the organization, and empowers the innovators who truly push projects forward. As an innovator, it’s vital you push your executives to have the tough conversations that lay the groundwork for innovation.

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Robert Berris is 352's SVP of Innovation. He's a writer, improv comedian and master of nunchucks. He has an unhealthy addiction to Converse shoes, and he's absolutely terrible at Excel.