When it comes to innovation projects, our instinct is to immediately partner with  C-Levels or other executives in the company. But that’s not the case anymore. In today’s digital organizations, innovation comes from all levels of the company.

As illustrated in the 2018 TIBCO CXO Innovation Survey, funding and driving innovation within a company is a role played by many across the organization. While executives and IT management play a key role (37 percent), the survey data also shows that 63 percent of innovation projects are occurring outside of these traditional stakeholder job titles and budgets. Finance, the Center of Excellence, and Operations are the top three sponsors of innovation as identified by respondents, and the list goes on well beyond this, touching many functional business areas.

However, these groups change as industry filters are applied. For example, in Healthcare, Operations (11.5 percent) leads R&D (10.25 percent) and Finance (5.1 percent). When looking at other industries such as Energy, Utilities, and Waste, leaders identified the primary sponsor for their innovation projects as the Human Resources (HR) department.

According to the survey data, respondents who identify themselves as digital beginners or digital conservatives are more likely to seek out executive management or IT to sponsor their innovation projects. On the contrary, respondents who identify themselves as digerati or digital fashionistas are more likely to go outside of executive management and IT to get their innovation projects sponsored, looking to other departments, such as HR, R&D, and Finance.

Digital transformation is at different levels (digerati, digital conservatives, digital beginners, and digital fashionistas) for all companies. But that doesn’t mean that different groups can’t be empowered to sponsor innovation. Smart, digitally-driven companies develop innovation in their own groups based on what their own needs are.

These groups don’t need to rely on executives to get their innovation projects sponsored. They know their pain points better than their executives do, and know what tools they need to address said pain points. Examples of this include smart business applications, R&D, process improvement, and software acquisition.  

Take innovation into your own hands by going outside executive management and IT to sponsor your innovation projects. This is an opportunity to push yourself outside of your digital comfort zone, helping you to become more of a digital fashionista or digerati. Sponsoring innovation within your own department is one of the first steps you can take to disrupting within your industry to get ahead in the race for digital transformation.