Avoid Becoming A One-trick Pony: Embrace Your Business' Need For Real-time

 

The term “one-trick pony” allegedly originated back in the 19th-century days of the traveling circus, where low-end ones were sarcastically called “dog and pony shows.” The really bad ones got the reputation of having a pony that only knew one trick. Today many IT shops are in danger of becoming like those sad circuses, having one or at least a very limited set of technology tricks to help their firms seize opportunities quickly. For example, I routinely talk to business people who say they avoid IT at all costs when they have new analytic needs; at these firms, IT has only one response to all new requests for data – update the data warehouse or a data mart in a slow and expensive waterfall development process.

One term keeps occurring, as I talk to businesses about this issue — they want to be real-time.  We’ve been using the term for years to talk about a wide range of things, from embedded C to extreme, low-latency analytics. I think all of these miss what the business is really after — the ability to use more information more quickly to take rapid action in response to unanticipated changes in their environment. Five-year technology strategies are out; but many can’t get their head around this new world, which is why a recent Forrester study showed that IT is increasingly losing control of technology spend. How do we get back in the game?

Companies like Barclays Wealth Management, Sears, and USAA are redefining their architecture with new tricks to be responsive in real-time by:

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Forrester's Top 15 Emerging Technologies To Watch: Now To 2018

The pace of technology-fueled business innovation is accelerating, and enterprise architects can take a leading role by helping their firms identify opportunities for shrewd investment. In our 2012 global state of EA online survey, we asked again what the most disruptive technologies would be; here’s what we found:

The results shouldn’t surprise anybody; however, if you are only looking at these, you are likely to get smacked in the face when you blink -- things are changing that fast. In the near future, new platforms built on today’s hot technologies will create more disruption. For example, by 2016 there will be 760 million tablets in use and almost one-third will be sold to business. Forrester currently has a rich body of research on mobility and other hot technologies, such as Forrester’s mobile eBusiness playbook and the CIO’s mobile engagement playbook. But by 2018, mobile will be the norm, so then what?

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Take A Broader View Of Agile To Survive In The Digital Age

I just finished analyzing our Q3 2012 Global State Of Enterprise Architecture Online Survey, where we asked a number of questions at the end of the survey on how firms identify and introduce new technology – new technology that your firm is counting on for innovation and competitive advantage. The results underscore a conviction that is growing in me: IT’s “one-size-fits-all” approach to standardizing everything and general aversion to risk isn't cutting the mustard. Simply put, opportunities for competitive advantage through technology-fueled disruption get missed, and this means digital extinction. Some data from our survey of 207 enterprise architects:

  • 58% reported that sales and marketing is among the top five most likely organizations to deliver technology innovations, and they are chasing windows of opportunity that close in months. IT typically takes at least a year to do anything.
  • 52% say there is at least some business dissatisfaction with the level of new technology introduction. The top reason, given by 78% of respondents, is that IT is too slow.
  • 70% of respondents admit their firms have trouble reacting to disruptions caused by emerging technology, and 60% admit to difficulty reacting to change in general.
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It Doesn't Matter Where EA Lives — So Let's Stop Arguing About It

George Colony, our CEO, just released a post on his blog about enterprise architecture, aptly enough named “Enterprise Architects For Dummies (CEOs).” I retweeted the post to my followers and received a flood of responses, most of which were violently disagreeing with George’s assertion that EA works for the CIO. I think this is a pointless argument, but underscores a very important change that most are missing.

Here’s what I mean:

  • The objection to putting EA under the CIO is based on an old-school notion.That notion is that CIOs are chief technology infrastructure managers. Our data shows that the role of CIO is changing, fueled by cloud and other as-a-service technology. CTOs or VPs of IT are increasingly taking on the job we used to think of as the CIO, while progressive CIOs are evolving to something else. Locating EA under the CTO is a bad idea, we all agree.
  • Every business is a digital business.If you don’t believe me, I’ll send you a pile of research. There is no such thing as a non-information-centric business anymore — or at least there won’t be for very long, because they are going out of business. Forrester has been using the term “business technology” (BT) for a while to indicate that there is no room for having separate business and IT — it simply won’t work much longer. Even in the most paper, analog verticals, we can give you example after example; check out Monsanto’s IFS (they are a seed company!).
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The First Rule Of Big Data — Don't Talk About Big Data

I’ll be chairing Big Data World Europe on September 19 in London; in advance of that event, here are a few thoughts.

Since late 2011, we’ve seen the big data noise level eclipse cloud and even BYOD, and we are seeing the backlash too (see Death By Big Data, to which I tweeted, “Yes, I suppose, ‘too much of anything is a bad thing’”). The number one thing clients want to know is, “What is my competition doing? Give me examples I can talk to my business about.” These questions reflect a curiosity on the part of IT and a “peeking under the hood to see what’s there” attitude.

My advice is to start the big data journey with your feet on the ground and your head around what it really is. Here are some “rules” I’ve been using with folks I talk to:

First rule of big data: don’t talk about big data. The old adage holds true here — those that can do big data do it, those that can’t talk <yup, I see the irony :-)>. I was on the phone with a VP of analytics who reflected that her IT people were constantly bringing new technologies to them like a dog with a bone. Her general reaction is, show me the bottom-line value. So what to do? Instead of talking to your business about big data, find ways to solve problems more affordably with data at greater scale. Now that’s “doing big data.”

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From Our EA Community — Boiling Down Your BT Strategy To A Single Page

Last fall, a member of our enterprise architecture community asked a simple question — how do you represent IT strategy on a single page? What resulted was the most read and commented discussion to date. That got our attention! But what really piqued our interest was when another community participant challenged us to go beyond our usual publishing process to co-create a report with the community.

For those who have been following the discussion, it has been slow going, but I'm glad to say that we are done! What's more, we have decided to make this report available to everyone since much of the content came directly from the community. Please follow this link (www.forrester.com/btstrategyonapage) to request your copy if you are not a client (free site registration is required). Clients should go to our normal site to download the report.

In the research, we took the community contributions and created a toolkit in PowerPoint form containing seven examples of business technology (BT) strategy representation on a single "page." The lesson we learned is that there is no one right way to do it and you will probably need several one-pagers for different audiences.

Why title it BT and not IT? We started out with the notion of pure IT strategy, but quickly realized that the best one-pagers married business strategy with technology strategy. Ideally, these two should be co-created by business and technology leaders. Why? Because "aligned IT" can no longer keep up with the blinding pace of business change; it takes a business technology approach. Consider:

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Starving People Will Find Food

In our Forrsights Business Decision-Makers Survey, Q4 2011, 79% of business executive respondents said that technology will be a key source of innovation for their company, while 71% said that it will be a competitive differentiator. So how well positioned is IT to help firms meet these expectations? Forty-six percent thought that their current IT organization was not well positioned to meet these needs, and 41% thought IT was overly bureaucratic.

I could go on with more data, but the message is clear — business is starving for technology to help it be more innovative, create market differentiation, and lower costs. In the midst of this, IT is mired in a technology mess created by years of underinvestment and business growth by acquisition. What’s going to happen?

The thing I want you to remember is something a client said to me not too long ago that stuck with me, “Starving people will find food.” So the question is: do we feed our starving business or tell them to stay on a diet? And if the latter, what will be the impact if they go scavenging the countryside? We think the answer involves flexibly and rapidly introducing new technology to take advantage of strategic opportunities, while still protecting data, mission-critical applications, and our most precious TCO reduction goals.

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Agility And What's Keeping You From It

In our Forrsights Business Decision-Makers Survey, Q4 2011, we asked business technology leaders to rate IT’s ability to establish an architecture that can accommodate changes to business strategy. While 45% of IT rated its ability positively, only 30% of business respondents did. Clearly, both think there is room for improvement, but business is more concerned about it.

So are we agile? Only 21% of enterprise architects in our September 2011 Global State Of Enterprise Architecture Online Survey reported being even modestly agile, so I think we all know the answer.

What do we do about it? Continue to focus on technology standardization and cost reduction? Give up on that and focus on tactical business needs? Gridlock in the middle because we can’t make the business case to invest in agility? This is the struggle EA organizations face today.

To act with agility, firms must create a foundation for it, and three barriers can get in the way:

  • Brittle processes and legacy systems. We all know it this one; the current state mess of processes that cannot adapt to change and legacy systems where everything is connected to everything else, so even the smallest changes have broad impacts. Techniques to overcome this barrier include partitioning the problem into digestible pieces to show incremental progress and short-term payoff.
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Are Your Employees Doing This?

I just saw something that makes a point I covered in a technology trends briefing for a client yesterday. After getting my Sun-dried Ethiopia Harrar (a $3.45 “clover-brewed,” ridiculously priced guilty pleasure – nice marketing job, Starbucks!), I noticed a young woman sitting behind me with her 5x7 notebook out, busily scribbling while bent over a large smartphone. Hmmm, I thought, let’s see what she’s doing. So I made pest of myself by asking a few questions. Here is some of the Q&A (her replies are abbreviated; she was actually quite helpful and not as curt):

  • Q: Are you a student or is what you are doing for work? A: No, I’m actually working.
  • Q: So do you have a PC? A: I do, but it’s a bulky 17” laptop that I got when I was a student, and I can do what I need on this.
  • Q: Is that company-issued phone, or is it yours? A: It’s mine.
  • Q: Does your company help by paying for any of the service? A: No, I pay it all myself.
  • Q: Are you doing an official assignment? A: No, nobody told me to do this. I am ...
  • Q: Do you even have your PC with you? A: No, I didn’t bring it.
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2012 Predictions – Technology Will Shape Who We Are As People And Businesses

In the first phase of the information age, technology helped us achieve new levels of productivity. In the next phase, technology will shape who we are. Why? Because technology is everywhere – and savvy businesses are paying attention. I did a check on a recent trip and noticed that, on average, 80% of the people around me were nose down in their technology. That’s amazing if you stop and think about it….(pause for thinking)…When you spend that much time using something, it ceases to be a helper and starts to shape who you are.

I think 2012 will be a watershed year for the global business environment as technology moves from being “out there” to “part of us.” In 2020, we will look back on 2012 not as the year the world ended but as the year it changed for good. Check out the TED video We Are All Cyborgs Now. Here are four predictions about business in 2012 that all start with the fusion of business and technology and the impact that it will have on shaping business. I hope will add some new thought food to your mental garden:

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