State-owned enterprises (SOEs) in China face a quickly changing competitive landscape — one that their existing technology strategies can’t keep up with. To address this challenge, organizations are migrating from earlier-generation BI architectures, technologies, and organizational structures to new models and approaches. My “Chinese State-Owned Enterprise Targets Improved Agility” report, scheduled to appear later this month, describes the experience of a typical large Chinese SOE, the China National Cereals, Oils, and Foodstuffs Corporation (COFCO), which leveraged a BI-led program to jump-start the transformation of its technology management capabilities.
COFCO is China’s largest supplier of agricultural and food products and services, including oils, rice, wine, tea, and various other products, and is expanding into real estate, shopping centers, and other industries. COFCO is a large B2B trader with many technology stakeholders, and its headquarters couldn’t quickly collect or analyze data from branches or business units, delaying the company’s response to and decisions about market changes. Major obstacles included siloed operations centers and business units; inconsistent data management rules that complicated centralized data governance; and other process and people challenges.
To address these issues, COFCO decided to redefine the position of technology management in the organization and review its technology agenda and planning. It evaluated and selected BI as the most compelling project to deliver quick business outcomes that would convince business executives to further invest in the transformation. Best practices that COFCO implemented include:
Regardless of what our minds conjure up when we think of airline travel, one thing we can readily observe is that while the weather, the experience of the flight crew, the mechanical condition of the aircraft, and the destination of the flight are all variables, the system of getting an aircraft from one place to another, in one piece, is extraordinarily reliable. Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines once joked that the airline business is the only place where the capital assets travel at 500 miles per hour.
Every commercial flight starts with a flight plan, a flight crew, an aircraft, and a destination. The dispatcher creates the plan based on the expected conditions for the flight, the limitations of the pilot and passengers, and the capabilities of the aircraft. Time is built into the plan to climb to cruise altitude and to descend again to reach the destination safely. How much fuel will be required is built into the plan and pumped into the tanks. Every activity is done to achieve a singular purpose: getting the aircraft and its passengers safely to the destination, and everyone involved knows where the destination is. Aviation is a study in viable systems design.
How strange it seems then, that thousands of IT projects begin every day, but more than one-third of them crash enroute. Why? I would argue that it's because there is seldom a clear destination in mind, a rational plan to get there, or a viable system approach in place to execute the plan. Most of the time, the destination and the means to get there are only vague estimates, and the elements of the strategy are rooted in hope.
Last year Netflix attempted to shift its business strategy to focus mainly on streaming video. Although I wasn’t present in the boardroom discussions, it’s a reasonable bet that Reed Hastings and his team had decided the future was online streaming and that physical discs were a dinosaur. Since the war for content would be fought over streaming, Netflix would focus on adding value to its streaming customers and spin off the disc customers. On the surface this seemed to many a reasonable strategy, especially since Netflix reported that its digital streaming customers and the disc-in-the-mail customers were mostly not one and the same. So Netflix execs crunched the numbers and decided this was the right move for them. Perhaps they had hoped to spin off the disc side of the business to raise some capital. Whatever their thinking, their strategy choices left some gaping unanswered questions for observers like me:
I’ve been speaking to more and more clients lately who are not just saving money with cloud computing — they’re using the principles of the cloud to completely transform how they source, build, and deliver all IT services. Savvy I&O leaders should look beyond the per-hour savings promised by the cloud to the core tenets of cloud computing itself. How do the public clouds do it? Why can’t you?
Well, you can. You can transform your IT operating model from that of widget-provider to a true service-oriented business partner. Forrester writes extensively about how to make the IT to BT (business technology) transition. I recently spoke at length with the IT management team at Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) about their multi-year IT transformation to what they call “everything-as-a-service.” I was put in touch with them by one of their primary suppliers, cloud service management and automation vendor ServiceMesh.
We’ll be publishing a complete case study soon, but I wanted to share some of the basics here because they outline a strategy anyone can achieve, regardless of your current level of cloud maturity. The bank started by establishing six core tenets to be enforced across all I&O services moving forward, whether hosted internally or externally. These guiding principles neatly summarize the core value dimensions of cloud computing itself:
Pay as you go. Business customers only pay for products and services actually used, on a metered, charge-back basis, under flexible service agreements, as opposed to fixed-term contracts.
For many traditional IT organizations, BT Strategic Planning is a new approach to developing technology strategy. As such, it often raises more questions than answers. If you’d like to know how to get more answers then this blog post is for you (if not you can skip the rest).
To help you get stuck in and apply the strat planning framework in your environment, we’re scheduling a couple of webinars and a two-day workshop for this September. In the first webinar on Sept. 11, we’ll go into the best practices CIOs put in place in order to set up their teams for success in developing business technology strategy. In the second webinar on Sept. 14, we’ll explore the levers of BT value and how to successfully communicate BT value. While both webinars are connected, you don’t need to attend the first to get value from attending the second.
And if you are interested in rolling up your sleeves some more, I’m facilitating a two-day workshop on BT Strategic Planning on Sept 25th and 26th in San Francisco. This open workshop builds upon the successful custom workshops we deliver for clients looking to apply Forrester’s planning framework. Over the course of two full, mind-bending days, you will go through the entire strategy planning framework and learn how to apply it in your organization.