As regular readers of my blog will know, I’ve been talking about moving beyond alignment for a number of years now. The fact is, too many CIOs have been able to get by on the basis of managing the technology black box — and CEOs and CFOs have been complicit in allowing these same CIOs the freedom to do what they want within tightly controlled budgets, not wanting to sully their hands with “all that technology stuff.” But those days are rapidly coming to an end. The technology genie is out of the bottle; today’s business-unit leaders are more dependent on technology than ever before, and they are also much more tech-savvy. CIOs can no longer hide behind the technology black box — it’s time to change the IT game forever. It’s time for IT to drive business results and connect all technology investments to business outcomes.
Today’s new CEOs are looking to CIOs and IT to make a direct impact on business goals from investments in technology. While every business must make technology investments to sustain operations, IT must move beyond simply keeping the lights on and connect the dots between effective growth strategies and new technology investments. This requires a different set of technology and business skills: different people, process, and technology in the IT organization. In fact, the organization is so different we now call it the business technology organization, or BT. The distinction between IT and BT is subtle but important. BT represents the fusion of the IT organization into the rest of the business. In a BT organization, the lines between IT and business units are blurred. What is important is a focus on the roles needed for effective business technology strategy execution. What’s not important are reporting lines.
For a long time Microsoft ruled the knowledge worker part of the IT seas with impunity. They have fended off attacks from the expected folks like IBM and Oracle rather handily. Then the consumerization wave hit. Turns out the danger came not from a frontal assault from another battleship, but from a huge array of small pirates. Knowledge worker eyeballs that always belonged to Microsoft strayed to Evernote, Dropbox, Box, Jive, Yammer, Google Apps, Confluence, you name it. Even IBM donned an eye patch and went pirate with Connections. A few leaks were found in the Microsoft battleship. Nothing too alarming if you follow the revenue and profit growth numbers from the Office group, but Microsoft has always thrived on paranoia. And for a paranoid company, this is very key moment in time.
Today Microsoft announced the biggest release of Office ever. Every product with an Office brand, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Exchange, Lync, SharePoint and on and on, will be updated with this new release. The strategy is in stark contrast to that of the competition. The pending acquisition of Yammer notwithstanding, the strategy is vintage Microsoft. Generate deeper and deeper integration between multiple products, marginalize competing products down to the level of core product features and bundle, bundle, bundle.
The consumer trends that Microsoft is reacting to are well known at this point: mobile, social and cloud. Here are some of the highlights that IT needs to pay attention to:
I recently attended an event in London where Telefonica shed more light on its Digital division. Digital is the central division driving innovation at Telefonica group and was formed in September 2011. However, Telefonica, despite the creation of Digital, still is somewhat in the old telco mold of inside-out innovation.
Digitization is undoubtedly a major theme affecting both society and the economy, bringing huge implications for communication, collaboration, consumption, and production. The big focus areas for Digital are e-health, digital content distribution, security, cloud, M2M, OTT comms, financial services, and advertising. In this respect, Digital is the right answer. My main observations from the event are:
Digital’s product development process is not end-user-focused enough. Digital does not seem to involve the actual end users as much as other solution providers, like for instance Colt (http://goo.gl/oBCO0). What was missing during most presentations was a better demand-analysis of its customer base. Digitization has big implications for company cultures, modes of operation, and ways of life. Businesses require significant assistance in preparing for these challenges such as change management. Digital did not explain how it plans to address these either through internal capabilities or through partnerships with business consulting firms like Deloitte. This means that Telefonica risks developing solutions that do not meet demand. Moreover, detailed customer case studies were not discussed, although Digital did present its portfolio development approach.
We want to recognize your good work in employee mobile, innovation, and collaboration or social projects. You'll find them in the Business to Employee (B2E) category. We're also very interested in the best B2C and B2B scenarios. CIOs care about all three, of course.
I recently spent a few days in Connecticut, USA, with Pitney Bowes. So why, you ask, is a CIO advisor who spends most of his time talking about the future of business technology in Asia Pacific spending time with a company that makes machines that stamp mail? That is a good question, and one I hope to answer while at the same time showing where I believe Pitney Bowes can help in your organisation.
So Pitney Bowes stamps mail. Yes — but they see it differently. They see that they enable communications with customers. Interesting. But mail is declining — right? Yes, it is, and Pitney Bowes has made many acquisitions to position itself as the leader in the digital mail space. And they have gone from just providing the communications capability to working across the entire customer lifecycle. Acquisitions of Portrait Software, MapInfo, Group 1 Software and many of the other firms they have acquired in the last 10 years have given them the ability to do:
- Customer profiling and segmentation
- Data preparation and composition
- Multi-channel customer output
- Customer response management
- Response analysis
I recently had the chance to spend some quality time with Dell in Singapore at their event for Forrester analysts in the Asia Pacific region. As Dell is a company traditionally known for its hardware products, I had low expectations – to date, few of my CIO clients would consider Dell a “strategic” supplier.
However, I was pleasantly surprised – Dell is reinventing itself from a PC and server supplier into an IT solutions provider. The benefits of the acquisition of Perot Systems and various software assets in North America and around the globe are starting to pay dividends in Asia Pacific.
As a late entrant into many of the newer markets they play in, they have the rare advantage of being able to do things differently – both from a solution and a pricing standpoint. From data centre transformation through legacy migration and application modernisation, to networking solutions, Dell is attempting to be disruptive player in the market – simplifying processes that were typically human-centric, and automating capabilities to reduce the overall burden of owning and running infrastructure.
Their strategy is to stay close to what they know – much of their capability is linked directly to infrastructure – but their open, modular, and somewhat vendor agnostic approach is in direct opposition to the “vendor lock-in” solutions that many of the other major vendors push.
I had an interesting follow-up conversation last week with Dmitry Chikhachev of Runa Capital. I asked what he was seeing in smart cities and civic innovation among Russian startups in these areas. Dmitry’s response supported my own observations that governments need to focus on the basics.
What kinds of innovation are you seeing in the public sector in Russia?
Many processes in the public sector are still supported by paperwork. One example is visa applications. To obtain a visa you need an application, on paper. You need copies of supporting documents. In Singapore, paperwork has been eliminated. You upload everything. And, you get a barcode via email to be shown with your passport when entering the country. To do this requires process change within government, which in turn, requires data handling, integration, electronic signature, and personal data protection — a combination of relatively high-tech solutions.
Within Russia, this kind of change — the shift to paperless government — is happening at the regional government level in Russia. Tatarstan is the most advanced from this point of view. (But on a promising side note, the Minister of Informatics from Tatarstan just got promoted to the federal level.) Government interaction with Tatarstan is already paperless.
Who is providing the solutions to support a paperless government?
Technologists love definitions. In fact, technologists particularly like arguing about definitions.
The term "BT" for example, is constantly under debate. Is it IT or BT? What is BT anyway? How is it different? This line of questioning really doesn't help deliver business results. I often equate it to trying to define "happy."
A poor business perception of IT's performance could actually be a strong indicator that IT is being driven more by arguing about definitions than getting stuff done. I've seen these "definitional disagreements" bring many technology supported business projects to their knees, the classic being data warehousing projects or CRM implementations.
Whether you understand (or like) the term BT or not, the key to achieving better technology integration with business strategy is to avoid discussions about definitions. In fact, the magic answer is in the dictionary definition of happy itself.
delighted, pleased, or glad, as over a particular thing: to be happy to see a person.
characterized by or indicative of pleasure, contentment, or joy: a happy mood; a happy frame of mind.
This is the conclusion of a recent research project on the future of IT governance. I am writing this summary of facts and findings hoping to get your feedback.
Here is what we did in the project: We started from the recently released COBIT 5 framework to set a baseline for what good IT governance is. We then assessed 15 case studies and selected nine that displayed characteristics of good IT governance. We also interviewed 25 technology management experts, asking them "whether and how IT governance will need to change when organizations adopt smart technologies such as a mobile, social, analytics business process management (BPM), and cloud."
What is the conclusion? The more your organization invests in smart technologies for business innovation, differentiation, and productivity improvements, the more you will need good IT governance for managing these investments. And because developing good IT governance is a learning experience filled with trial and error, the earlier you start applying good IT governance as a continuous improvement process, the faster you will benefit from it and your investments.
But what does this mean in practical terms? We identified five directions for change. They nicely fit with the COBIT principles:
1) Make technology development an integral part of business strategy.
2) Focus on cross-functional business alignment.
3) Engage employees at all levels of the organization.
4) Maintain an integrated IT governance framework and single ownership.
5) Develop separate responsibilities for IT governance and IT management.