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Innovation, entrepreneurial thinking vital for IT leaders

Jaikumar Vijayan | June 6, 2012
Jason Palmer has some pretty straightforward advice for executives looking to derive more value from technology: be a contrarian.

Innovative and entrepreneurial approaches are critical during challenging economic times said Shyam Desigan, the chief financial officer at Volunteers of America Chesapeake. The non-profit organization was recognized at the event for its work on building a predictive analytics capability for identifying new service opportunities.

"With compressing margins and changing customer landscape the only way for organizations to survive and thrive is be innovative and entrepreneurial," Desigan said. "When people say 'no' or 'can't be done on this budget' I have looked at creative ways which includes leveraging cloud computing and open source to drive incremental change."

Until recently, few CIOs would be fired for selecting companies such as an IBM or a Cisco as their technology partners, he said. "With the changing times there has been a paradigm shift in this thinking. CFOs like myself are increasingly looking for value," Designan said.

Lou August, a global co-leader of technology development at World Vision International, a faith-based relief, development, and advocacy organization based in Canada that was recognized at the event for a developing an innovative mobile technology for tracking aid distribution.

August describes a lot of the work that he and his teammates do as entrepreneurial in nature, whether it is creating technology-enabled programs that have never been done before, or building technology-enabled social ventures.

"As the founder and owner of a technology company for 20 years, I believe entrepreneurial skills are essential for an IT leader," August said. But equally vital is a passion for the job and a willingness to work extremely hard towards a specific goal, he said. "This is a big reason why training people in entrepreneurship or guiding entrepreneurs to innovate in areas they are not passionate about often rarely works."

Another litmus test for IT leaders is their wiliness to take risks, and their willingness to put their careers on the line for taking such risks. "This willingness is also tied to ones passion. Achieving a vision one is passionate about is always more valuable than one's career itself," August said.


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