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CIO Review >> Magazine >> August - 2013 issue

IT Expectations of Companies and Customers at an Inflection Point


Los Angeles based Avery Dennison (NYSE: AVY) is a global manufacturer and distributor of pressure-sensitive adhesive materials (such as self-adhesive labels), office products, and various paper products. The company has a market cap of $4.15 billion.

Consumer experience is now driving IT performance expectations. This goes far beyond the impact of any individual device or operating system. Since the advent of the personal computer, consumers have learned to expect constantly accelerating improvement in the ease and speed with which they access information and connect with the world around them. It has profoundly changed the way they interact with people, products and organizations. And it is driving the IT expectations of both companies and their customers. CIOs are literally running to keep up.

In a dynamic scenario like this security does not get enough attention. IT security issues will only become more challenging as mobile devices proliferate, intellectual property becomes more valuable, and companies across a wide spectrum of industries integrate IT more closely into their core business operations. And it is a challenge with multiple facets, as much a behavioral issue as a technical one. I would like to see a lot more creative thought given to this challenge and I would like to see potential solutions that are more holistic in their approach.

CIO and their Woes

Choosing wisely remains a CIO's toughest challenge. Which new technologies will develop into long-term winners? In what time frame? And which technology providers will survive to support them? Choosing from among competing options to ensure a reasonable ROI on large technology investments is a constant challenge. Despite appearances to the contrary, successful technology solutions do not spring forth overnight. Most take years, even decades to develop and mature. CIOs play a constant game of chess, making calculated moves to advance near-term performance and position the business for the future.

The CIO must also constantly address multiple competing views of IT. From an investment perspective, new technologies can advance important business goals, enhancing efficiency, deepening customer relationships, delivering significant competitive advantage. Everyone wants more of that. But there is also a utility-like aspect to much of IT. We deliver the infrastructure that keeps the ship stable and moving forward. Upgrading or replacing that infrastructure is costly and disruptive. Nobody likes that. Allowing either one of these views to dominate IT strategy— and investment — is a mistake. They both need to be addressed in business planning. That's why the concept of strategic business partnership is such a hot topic in organizational IT today.

Innovation at Work

Innovation starts with the freedom to explore. We have made a big effort to incorporate this concept into our formal development and decision-making processes. For example, we recently chose to move our employees to a new electronic communications and social media platform. One of our first steps was to launch a hundred employees across the company on individual exploratory missions of potential choices. More informally, we often provide seed money to groups around the company so they can play with new devices or software and explore their potential to improve our business processes.

Wearable Gadgets Approaching a Tipping Point

I am a car guy, so my first impulse is to talk about the incredible advances in electronics now showing up in new cars, from high performance Porches to high efficiency Priuses. It's not hard to believe that driverless cars are just around the corner.

But I think the most exciting advances in tech-enabled devices are wearable devices. Avery Dennison has taken a step in this direction with its VanciveMedical Technologies business, which is developing adhesives that can significantly improve patient care, including better bandages and wearable medical sensors. This is just one example taken from a large product category that has now reached a tipping point and is about to explode with useful applications.