Question: How can IT leaders influence spend on innovation?

I am a senior IT professional in a large corporation. We go through an elaborate annual budgeting exercise to decide a shortlist of new IT projects to work on, with an average of 10% YOY budget challenge.

In spite of all the talk of IT led innovation, the true budget for innovation arrives only when senior product leaders are convinced of the value of an IT project.

While products are "closer to the customer", I sense IT teams are usually more aware of mega-trends in the industry (big data, for example).

How can IT managers become more effective leaders of innovation?

2 Expert Insights

I see no harm in the challenges you face with the fact that product people scrutinize the value of IT projects. It offers another check and balance for expensive and risky IT purchasing decisions. My personal experiences lead me to believe that IT managers can become much more effective leaders of innovation if they meet the following 7 criteria. There are many more than this but these are good starters:

1. Explore creative applications of Gamification to increase employee and customer engagement.
2. Strive to integrate IT thinking with business productivity (ala Cisco).
3. Explore more S-BPM natural language programming opportunities so non-IT employees can create IT workflow applications without dealing with IT resource bottlenecks. These systems should be compatible with existing systems like SAP, etc.
4. Make IT a partner in business Kaizen / Rapid Improvement Events by creating  S-BPM and non-IT process blends to solve business productivity issues. I am currently active in this arena.
5. Be capable of Liberating and accelerating IT at the speed of internal and external Customer needs. That's a mission statement for my new IT product.
6. Have the ability to assess and test claims of new supplier technology quickly so not to be fooled by distracting hype.
7. Be innovative in the arena of IT hacker security by creating adaptive hack-proof systems with the help of innovative War Game scenarios. See a lead article I wrote for the QHSE magazine about my patent pending business risk assessment tools "Identifying Cascade Effect Risks in Organizations". These organizational risk assessment tools can be used to assess  and mitigate IT security risks.

Let me know if you want to have a deeper discussion about anything I mentioned here.

I think you've captured a really good sales question.  Thus, my answer is "by engaging in relationship selling with your internal constituents."

I really like the detailed, practical suggestions made by Mr. Patrishkoff and I suspect those will be platforms for innovation. I'd add something about analysis tools for big data projects, but that is somewhat embedded in his answers already I think.

My perspective is on process. Ask and listen. Read SPIN Selling, by Neil Rackham.  Adopt a servant leadership mentality. Ask the key IT internal customers what their business objectives are.  What problems they are having. What opportunities. Clarify that these problems really are problems by asking what are the implications to them directly if the problems aren't addressed or the opportunities aren't seized. Then ask what they would need to see a pay from an IT-sponsored project.   Build a suite of projects that line managers and their senior execs are excited about funding. Show the roll-up to achieving business objectives.

...then get tight with the HR department when you have to hire more staff!