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.
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.
It's time to re-think the report card used by CIOs to report on BT performance – tomorrow’s BT CIOs must look beyond the traditional IT Balanced Scorecard (BSC).
I realize this is sacred ground for many people in IT (and some of my colleagues here at Forrester), so let me explain myself before I receive a barrage of complaints. The philosophy behind Business Technology (BT) recognizes technology as integral to every facet of every organization – as such, IT is very much an integral part of the business; we can no longer talk about “business” and “IT” as if referring to two distinct things. I’m suggesting that in the age of BT, we need a new scorecard that better reflects the impact of BT on the business.
Consider the following scenario: It’s a hot summer day and a prospective customer walks into your store to buy an air conditioner. He evaluates several models and then buys one — but not from you. It turns out your competitor located two miles away is offering the same model at a 20% discount. How did he know this? He scanned the product's bar code using the RedLaser app on his iPhone, which displayed several local retailers with lower prices than yours. If he had been willing to wait three days for shipping, he could have purchased the exact same model while standing in your store from an online retailer at a 30% discount.
This type of technology-fueled disruption is affecting all industries, not just retailers. Since the early 1900s, businesses relied on competitive barriers such as manufacturing strength, distribution power, and information mastery. But this is all changing in the age of the customer, where empowered buyers have information at their fingertips to check a price, read a product review, or ask for advice from a friend right from the screen of their smartphone.
To compete in the age of the customer, your business must become customer-obsessed. As Forrester’s Josh Bernoff (@jbernoff), SVP of Idea Development and author of Groundswelland Empowered, advocates in his latest research: “The only source of competitive advantage is the one that can survive technology-fueled disruption — an obsession with understanding, delighting, connecting with, and serving customers.”