I presented the keynote at the Biztech2 event in Mumbai last week. It was a big evening, as almost all key Indian CIOs were present at the event. The theme of my keynote was “The Empowered BT CIO,” which triggered some interesting thoughts, as all of the discussions that I had after the presentation were mainly around “business” with hardly any mention of “technology.” Below are the key points mentioned by CIOs in my discussions with them:
“We do all the work and business leaders take all the credit. But if something goes wrong, we are the ones who get the blame.”
“The money is with the finance and marketing departments, and we have to depend on them for our budget. My CEO should change this structure.”
“I don’t have followers in my organization.”
“My organization doesn’t give me the same importance as it gives the CFO or CMO.”
“Through technology innovation, I helped the company reduce IT spending and save money.”
All of these points have one thing in common: “my present role and issues that I face today.” But no one talked about their future role! My response to them was consistent, as I categorically highlighted that CIOs have two options:
Continue with your current approach — but then the future role of the CIO will be dismal.
Step up and take the challenge to shape the business. Take it as an opportunity to transform your role in the empowered world.
Yes, that’s right — I’m suggesting CIOs should stop working on IT strategy. The days of developing a technology strategy that aligns to business strategy need to be behind us. Today’s CIOs must focus on business strategy.
Let’s face it: Does sound business strategy even exist today without technology? Most CEOs would likely agree that, unless you are running a lemonade stand, any successful business strategy must have solid technology at its core. The challenge for today’s CEOs is that, while planning business strategy in isolation from technology is sub-optimal, it remains the most common way business leaders develop strategy. And while there have been many great books about strategy, the specific challenges facing the CIO are largely absent.
That’s why Forrester has researched the ways in which companies develop technology strategy and also why we have developed the Business Technology Strategic Planning (BTSP) Framework. Our new BTSP framework distills Forrester’s current research into an easy-to-follow guide that has at its heart the understanding that there should be no IT strategy, just business strategy with a technology component, or BT strategy.
Now you might think we’re crazy — after all, many firms, including Forrester, earn substantial revenue from advising CIOs on IT strategy. But as I see it, IT strategic plans belong in a museum.
I had an interesting conversation with a Forrester client in response to an inquiry about the definition of “time to value” for technology solutions. When I received the question, I thought, “That’s easy!” While there is no “GAAP” definition of time to value, I was ready to say that it would be one of two things:
1- The time from project start to the start of business benefit accrual. So, if a project took 12 months to implement, and then three months for the business to adapt to it, the time until business benefits began to accrue would be 15 months.
2- The time from project start to the date at which cumulative business benefits exceeded the cumulative costs. In other words, the time until the “payback” of the investment.
However, in trolling around to make sure that I hadn’t missed anything, I stumbled upon a potential third definition (and I wish I could point back to the source). One commentator on the Web suggested something a bit different – and something that has a great deal of merit as we rely more and more on technology to drive business gains. In his definition, time to value represented the time until the business targets for the solution were achieved. So, rather than looking at the start of benefits, or the date we’re no longer cash-negative, we are now looking at the time until the full desired benefits are achieved. So this becomes:
3- Time to value is the time from project initiation until the projection of total business benefits is achieved.
This change in perspective has a number of implications:
Corporate CIOs should not ignore the network-centric nature of cloud-based solutions when developing their cloud strategies and choosing their cloud providers. And end users should understand what role(s) telcos are likely to play in the evolution of the wider cloud marketplace.
Like many IT suppliers, telcos view cloud computing as a big opportunity to grow their business. Cloud computing will dramatically affect telcos — but not by generating significant additional revenues. Instead, cloud computing will alter the role of telcos in the value chain irreversibly, putting their control over usage metering and billing at risk. Alarm bells should ring for telcos as Google, Amazon, et al. put their own billing and payment relationships with customers in place.
Telcos must defend their revenue collection role at all costs; failure to do so will accelerate their decline to invisible utility status. At the same time, cloud computing offers telcos a chance to become more than bitpipe providers. Cloud solutions will increasingly be delivered by ecosystems of providers that include telcos, software, hardware, network equipment vendors, and OTT providers.
Telcos have a chance to leverage their network and financial assets to grow into the role of ecosystem manager. To start on this path, telcos will provide cloud-based solutions that are adjacent to communication services they already provide (like home area networking and machine-to-machine solutions), such as connected healthcare and smart grid solutions. Expanding from this beachhead into a broader role in cloud solutions markets is a tricky path that only some telcos will successfully navigate.
We are analyzing the potential role of telcos in cloud computing markets in the research report Telcos as Cloud Rainmakers.