Driving Digital Innovation

By Steven Ferguson, CIO, Technical College System of Georgia

Disruptive and emerging technologies are reshaping industries at an unprecedented pace. As a Chief Information Officer with over two decades of experience, I have been at the forefront of driving digital innovation and witnessed its profound impact on organizations. In this article, I share my personal insights and experiences to highlight the role of emerging technologies, and those that wield them in transforming industries and driving digital innovation.

My Journey in Digital Innovation:

Throughout my career, I have been passionate about embracing and harnessing the power of emerging technologies to drive innovation. From my early days as a Systems Administrator to my current role as a Chief Information Officer, I have consistently sought opportunities to explore new technologies and leverage them to create value by aligning solutions to business challenges.

One of the pivotal moments in my journey was when I transitioned to the role of CIO. This role allowed me to lead the transformation of our organization’s infrastructure, applications, and data systems, paving the way for digital innovation. By embracing cloud computing, data analytics, and automation, we were able to streamline processes, enhance efficiency, and deliver a world class experience to our students.

Fostering a Culture of Innovation:

Driving digital innovation goes beyond implementing new technologies—it requires fostering a culture of innovation within organizations. As a leader, I have made it a priority to create an environment that encourages creativity, collaboration, and continuous learning. By empowering my team to explore emerging technologies, experiment with new ideas, and learn from failures, we have cultivated an innovative mindset that fuels our desire to re-imagine what is possible.

Through initiatives such as eCampus, micro-credentials, and a system-wide CRM rollout, we have successfully encouraged team members to think outside the box and challenge conventional wisdom. This culture of innovation has not only sparked groundbreaking ideas but has also fostered a sense of ownership and engagement among team members.

Digital Innovation is a transformative force that is reshaping industries and driving organizations toward a future of limitless possibilities. As industry leaders, we are responsible for embracing emerging technologies, fostering a culture of innovation, and leveraging strategic partnerships to fuel digital transformation.

Strategic Partnerships as Catalysts for Innovation:

Silos are the enemy of success. Strategic partnerships have been crucial in driving digital innovation within my organization. By collaborating with leading technology vendors, industry experts, and research focused institutions, we have gained access to cutting-edge expertise, resources, and technologies.

These partnerships have enabled us to stay ahead of the curve and embrace emerging technologies more effectively. For instance, our collaboration with Georgia Tech allowed us to pilot groundbreaking projects leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning. Through these partnerships, we have expanded our knowledge base and fostered a culture of co-innovation and knowledge exchange.

Recent Trends Shaping Digital Innovation:

The definition of digital innovation is continuously evolving, with new technologies emerging almost daily. Staying abreast of these trends is vital for organizations seeking to effectively leverage new and emerging technologies. However, it is important to keep in mind that not every new technology is a perfect fit for your organization. Let’s explore some recent trends that have the potential to reshape industries:

1. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML):

AI and ML are revolutionizing businesses across sectors, offering capabilities such as advanced analytics, automation, and personalized experiences. Organizations can harness the power of AI and ML to gain valuable insights from vast amounts of data, automate processes, and enhance decision-making. For instance, we’ve implemented multiple AI-powered chatbots that streamline student and stakeholder interactions, providing personalized and efficient support.

2. Internet of Things (IoT):

The proliferation of IoT devices presents significant opportunities for organizations to collect and analyze real-time data. Businesses can optimize operations, improve supply chain management, and enhance customer experiences by leveraging IoT technologies. For example, my organization was recently awarded a grant from the US Economic Development Administration to further programs related to artificial intelligence in manufacturing. This will allow us to leverage IoT in our training environments and help Georgia’s manufacturers adopt IoT devices for intelligence and automation.

3. Cloud Computing and Hybrid Infrastructures:

Cloud computing has revolutionized the way organizations approach infrastructure and software deployment. The scalability, flexibility, and cost-efficiency of cloud platforms enable businesses to accelerate innovation and adapt to changing market demands. Furthermore, the emergence of hybrid infrastructures, combining on-premises and cloud environments, allows organizations to leverage the best of both worlds, ensuring data security, compliance, and performance.

4. Cybersecurity and Data Privacy:

As digital innovation expands, so does the need for robust cybersecurity measures and data privacy frameworks. Organizations must prioritize cybersecurity and build a strong defense against evolving threats. Data privacy regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), demand that businesses adopt proactive approaches to protect customer data and ensure regulatory compliance. With the evolving threat of AI-based attacks, I expect a massive shift in cyber defense technologies and regulation.


In conclusion, digital innovation is a transformative force that is reshaping industries and driving organizations toward a future of limitless possibilities. As industry leaders, we are responsible for embracing emerging technologies, fostering a culture of innovation, and leveraging strategic partnerships to fuel digital transformation.

By staying abreast of recent trends such as AI and ML, IoT, cloud computing, and cybersecurity, we can unlock new opportunities and drive sustainable growth for our organizations.

Now is the time to embrace the potential of digital innovation, and I am excited to be a part of this transformative journey.