In my last post, I wrote about the evolving need for big business to source generic capabilities from business partners/vendors. This shift provides an enormous opportunity as well as a threat for technology vendors and CIOs.
I’m not talking about the wholesale outsourcing of IT. Rather, the selective sourcing of business capabilities and business process through software-as-a-service (SaaS), most likely deployed through cloud-based platforms (capability-as-a-service, or CaaS). Software and hardware vendors need to rethink their business from the customer’s perspective. They must figure out how to transform their products into services that deliver business capabilities and business outcomes.
If you’re a tech vendor, this means that you need to analyze each target industry and determine which business capabilities are likely to be strategic, and which are most likely to be generic. In retailing, for example, strategic capabilities might center on mastering customer data to create unique and valuable customer experiences as well as price optimization. Whereas capabilities around merchandising and assortment planning may be generic across many retailers (even though most merchandisers I know would never admit to this), these generic capabilities are likely to be delivered as SaaS in the future.
If you have existing solutions that target an industry’s generic capabilities, they are prime candidates for delivering the capability to the market as a service. Where your solutions target strategic capabilities, you will need to provide highly customized services through strategic partnership arrangements.
It's been clear for years now that small business startups don't build massive IT departments and big operations teams. Instead they focus on the capabilities which truly differentiate them in the marketplace - their strategic capabilities. They hire experts in these capabilities as employees and continue to improve their differentiation. At the same time, they look to source their more generic business capabilities from business partners and technology service providers.
We are going to see a seismic shift in big business in the coming years: there will be an increasing appetite to source generic capabilities from vendors and business partners; at the same time CEOs will focus increasingly scarce human capital resources on improving their strategic capabilities - the capabilities which give them a competitive edge.
While digital technology will remain at the heart of these strategic capabilities - leveraging cloud, big data analytics, mobile and social - the majority of technology services will be sourced from partners and vendors. The company's own technology resources will become more and more intensely focused on developing unique systems of engagement around strategic capabilities.
Is there a fundamental problem in today’s IT? I believe there is, and it’s this: IT decision-makers are too often focused on the wrong things.
In a recent study, Forrester examined the top priorities, topics, and terms from a variety of data sources for both business decision-makers and technology decision-makers. What we found was a very clear — and to my mind, troubling — distinction between these two groups.
Business decision-makers focus on topics like growing revenue, improving customer satisfaction, and hiring, developing, and retaining the best talent. By contrast, IT decision-makers focus on topics like improving project delivery performance, improving budget performance, and cutting IT costs.
The fact that IT decision-makers have so little focus on business outcomes is one of the main reasons IT is seen as disconnected from the rest of the business.
The only way for CEOs and CIOs to fix this is to begin to measure IT professionals more in terms of business-outcomes and less on project delivery and system uptime. In other words, we need to measure IT professionals using the same KPIs we use to measure leaders across the rest of the business. This means we must begin measuring IT’s impact on things like the change in customer satisfaction (that’s the company’s customer satisfaction and not IT’s internal “customers” as some groups like to refer to other employees in the company), or the increase in sales, or the ability to attract and retain top talent.