CIO: Innovation should be a joint initiative between tech and business leaders

October 15, 2020 | David Daly 5 Mins read

A focus on innovation, new technology and digital tools should form part of every CIO’s ambition and day to day behaviour- in fact, they are usually hired to help develop a culture of innovation at a multinational company.

The CIO will likely take a good look around at the opportunities for innovation available within the various business units of the company and then develop a strategy to introduce the kind of innovation and new technologies to business models that can result in a competitive advantage or strong return on investment.

In this article, we are going to focus on the reality that technology leaders and wider business leaders within an organization need to meet and collaborate under the supervision of the CIO, to make digital transformation and innovation a reality.

A collaborative effort

Business leaders, innovators and key stakeholders need to come together to form a collaborative effort that can introduce a level of innovation to business models that results in a competitive advantage. Sometimes it can be difficult to get everybody on the same page because not everybody who has a role to play in innovation is involved in the project.

Innovation is a process and a way of thinking, as well as a set of behaviors and it must not be confused with simply being the power to purchase new technologies. Anyone can purchase new technology and put it to use, but a CIO, as an innovator, will be tasked with putting together a long-term plan for new products that is far more nuanced in detail then a new technology purchase. This plan begins with ensuring the structures are in place to assist with the collaborative effort between all of the relevant stakeholders.

An investment in digital tools will be needed at some point in the collaborative process, but the point is, it is a process and any innovation process or new product will involve business leaders. True innovation is a team effort and CIOs today need to get all stakeholders around the table so that everybody is clear on how innovation will be created and what role they, as business leaders have to play in it. The days of business units, along with the technology in them, operating in isolation with a singular focus is over.  Decision-making about overall business needs must include business partners from around the company.

Tech and People

The right mix of people and technology can lead to a level of innovation that takes a company in a whole new direction. This direction can lead to sustainable success if the stakeholders are engaged early in the process and the new technology aligns to the business strategy. The CIO can take the lead here and demand that things like digital transformation projects become a joint initiative between business leaders and senior technology stakeholders.

Let’s take the global payroll department as an example and look at what CIO objectives might be when it comes to introducing much needed innovation to a previously neglected department. In this case, chief information officers will likely be aware that innovative digital tools, artificial intelligence and a cloud platform environment can result in significant productivity gains and cost savings when it comes to a business model for global payroll.

An immediate step might be to get the IT leaders of the company in the same room as the global payroll professionals and managers, so that everybody gets to air their views on The innovation process and what is needed to move the department forward. The technology leaders need to fully understand the needs and pain points currently being experienced in global payroll to be in a position to suggest the most suitable and most innovative technology which could be deployed to change things and achieve a competitive advantage.

The CIO will have strong opinions here and will look to embed a sense of open innovation that leverages technology to its fullest potential. The CIO will want all collaborators to become business partners who focus on business needs, and each individual has a critical role to play in any digital transformation. This will be a new approach that will result in new methodologies and perhaps even new business models.

The CIO will want to create a certain amount of balance between the kind of short and long-term business outcomes that can be achieved with an investment in digital technologies. A fast roll-out of technological innovation is entirely possible in the short term while also laying the foundation for a more large-scale joint initiative in the future.

Outline the objectives

The global payroll manager needs to outline what great operational efficiency might look like – this gives the tech people in the room a goal to work towards. It also enables the CIO to fully understand the needs of the global payroll department and consider how the respondents from the technology department might meet these needs while also aligning to an overall business needs involving technology and innovation in the business.

It can be a little complex and messy to begin with, but these are crucial conversations which will ensure that all stakeholders are collaborative and operating from the same page. It may not guarantee that money will instantly be made available for a technology investment in global payroll, but it will be invaluable when it comes to framing the context for a digital transformation and the likely results any investment will achieve if deployed successfully.

So, what might the objectives be when it comes to global payroll and technology- the below are some things that every global payroll manager wants and needs:

automated processes or machine learning that significantly reduces manual input and the risk of error associated with it

standardized data and process workflows across all countries on the payroll books -so that payroll professionals and end users in each country are operating from the same playbook

a technology platform capable of integrating with accounting/HCM/ERP systems as well as the wider IT ecosystem in the organization

consolidated reporting tools for the generation of comprehensive and detailed payroll reports

remote access to crucial payroll data -authorization and sharing tools

a global technology framework and process that is also capable of accommodating local country nuance

digitized calendars, alerts and communications

Plan of action

Now that the CIO and the technology leaders within the organization have a clear understanding of what a global payroll department needs to become more efficient, they can begin to outline a plan of action and engage in decision making. This plan will likely be based on the fastest and most cost-efficient way to deliver on the objectives outlined in the previous discussions between all stakeholders. The technology stakeholders understand their objectives better and the global payroll managers are comforted by the knowledge that a digital transformation project is in place to tackle specific problems. They have in a sense, become partners and collaborators in a joint initiative and this new approach can create genuine momentum.

The CIO will be keen to learn about any existing technology that can deliver quick wins in the global payroll department. Next, they may focus on a long-term strategy and the technology investment needed to solve some of the more complex aspects of global payroll in an agile way.

Standardized data and processes are something that would be relevant to both strategies -it can lead to positive gains in the short term as standardized processes can help to achieve centralised governance and control of data, people and vendors.

In the longer term, standardization can make technology platform integrations easier and it can also pave the way from more comprehensive reporting and analytics. Also, a standardized process for global payroll is one that can be mapped and duplicated across numerous countries and this adds long term value to business models by making the process of scaling into new territories, faster and easier.

Focus on value

A key priority for any CIO will be ensuring that any technology investment also adds value to other areas of the business and a wider ecosystem. In the case of global payroll, they may be particularly interested in the automation and integration capabilities of a technology platform that enables the smooth transfer of data between global payroll and other departments such as HR and the finance ecosystem.

This would enable them to make a business case to c-suite leaders and confirm that any investment benefits not only the individual global payroll department but other business units and the company as a whole- this is innovation that a leadership team at an organization can get behind and gain a competitive advantage from.

The open collaboration between the business leaders and other stakeholders like global payroll managers, will help everyone to identify areas what technology used in one project could also be a value in a different department. The more stakeholders that can see and understand the value of new technologies, the more likely they are to begin thinking about how that technology or similar technology could benefit their specific departments. This can then result in a case where an investment is made in a piece of technology that can be shared across different business functions to great effect. in such a scenario, the business case for financial investment is fully justified and the resulting technology is optimized to benefit the business in a more efficient way.

Wide-ranging benefits

A CIO can initiate a project that introduces hyperautomation for example, into a global payroll function, and this hyperautomation is also utilized to transfer crucial data inputs across the HR and Finance. The hyperautomation would also serve to relieve global payroll professionals of time-consuming data entry so that they could dedicate their considerable skills two higher priority work like reporting and analytics.  Beneficial outcomes such as these enable CIOs to justify financial investment in technology innovation using visible and measurable positive results.

The more relevant stakeholders involved in the conversations at the beginning of a process, the greater the likelihood that wide ranging benefits can be achieved. A HR manager together with some senior finance professionals should perhaps also be in any meeting that involves a discussion around improving global payroll delivery- their views may result in a technology investment that has secondary benefits for their workflow processes. In this case, innovation is truly a joint initiative between those with business knowledge and those with technology knowledge. This is the way it should be.


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Using Payslip, we can manage all our payrolls across nine in-country vendors on one platform. When the global Covid-19 pandemic arose, it was not an issue from a payroll perspective, and critically getting everyone paid. The Payslip platform enabled continuity for our international payroll service including the fast and seamless implementation of the Payslip Employment Self Service during this time.

Colin Smith

Payroll Manager, LogMeIn

With business and employee growth rates of above 50%, we rely on our vendors to deliver on time, every time. Payslip’s workflow automation, enables Phorest to manage our payroll provider process – data driven, real time and transparent. Payslip saves us time so we can focus on our business growth.

Ana Kelly

International Payroll Manager, Phorest