After wrapping up our CIO Forum in Paris last week, I can definitely say CIOs and IT leaders care about strategy. The theme of this year's conference was "Collaboration To Co-Creation," and we included a number of sessions directed at helping IT leaders step up and influence business strategy.
A highlight of the forum was Peter Hinssen's talk on The New Normal — you can see a sample of Peter delivering an earlier version of his presentation on YouTube (http://youtu.be/s_w04xb4MqM?hd=1). And Peter's talk perfectly framed the strategic themes of the conference.
Through a number of keynote and track sessions, CIOs discussed transforming IT to have an even greater impact on business outcomes. Central to this theme was the exploration of Forrester's new BT Strategic Planning Playbook, including a workshop-style session where CIOs got to exchange experiences on moving their organizations away from being order-takers and toward strategic partners with lines of business.
It's clear from the discussions I had with many of the CIOs attending that IT leaders sense new opportunities to partner in developing effective business strategy and moving toward co-creation. But there are challenges ahead; here are a few I shared in Paris in a short session on co-creation:
Language is important. What we say and how we say it are critical. Even speaking plain English is challenging. For example, in England one might say "put the money in the boot" (probably only likely if you are a bank robber but I like the imagery so bear with me). What we might imagine is something like this
It's strange, but some things about the CIO role change very little from year to year -- and one of the most consistent priorities for CIOs has always been achieving better "alignment" with “the business.” But should this really be a top priority?
I can’t help it, I really dislike the term “alignment” -- it suggests to me that CIOs are trying to bring together two separate and distinct things: “the business” and “IT.” But the really successful CIOs already know this specific language sets everyone up to perceive IT as something apart from the business. And we all know that every business has technology woven intricately throughout -- to suggest technology is not a vital part of business success is simply wrong. So instead of talking about aligning IT with the rest of the business, we need to focus on ensuring the business is using technology to achieve defined goals and deliver business results.
Unfortunately, for many companies, IT appears to be in the software development business -- responding to “orders” from “internal customers” and busily delivering applications. CIOs need to ask: “what business are we in?” For most CIOs, the answer will undoubtedly NOT be the technology business. For these CIOs, the most precious skill IT can bring to the organization is business knowledge and process understanding coupled with technology know-how. By helping identify how technology can change the business dynamics and move the organization more efficiently toward its objectives, IT becomes the foundation for competitive advantage. In other words, IT needs to be in the business of helping shape business strategy.
When I started as an architect, I was part of the team called “IT Architecture.” It was clear what we did and who we did it for – we standardized technology and designs so that IT would be more reliable, deliver business solutions more quickly, and cost less. We were an IT-centric function. Then the term “Enterprise Architecture” came in – and spurred debates as to “isn’t EA about the business?,” “what’s the right scope for EA?,” and “should EA report to the CEO?” We debated it, published books and blogs about it – but it didn’t change what most architects did; they did some flavor of IT Architecture.
Meanwhile, the interplay of business and technology changed . . . Technology became embedded and central to business results, and business leaders became technology advocates. The locus of technology innovation moved from the “heavy lifting” of core system implementations to the edges of the business, where business staff see opportunities and demand more autonomy to seize them. For enterprise architects, this means that regardless of what EA has been, in the future it must become a business-focused and embedded discipline. Mapping this shift is a key theme of Forrester’s Enterprise Architecture Forum 2011.
Gene Leganza, who will be presenting the opening keynote “EA In The Year 2020: Strategic Nexus Or Oblivion?,” states it this way:
What will business and technology be like in 2020 – and what’s IT’s place in this new world? This is the subject of a teleconference that James Staten and I held for our clients yesterday and also the subject of an upcoming Forrester report.
In this teleconference, we painted a picture of the impact of business-ready, self-service technology, a tech-savvy and self-sufficient workforce, and a business world in which today’s emerging economies dwarf the established ones, bringing a billion new consumers with a radically different view of products and services, as well as in which surging resource costs – especially energy costs – crush today’s global business models.
In the past, when new waves of technology swept into our businesses – everything from the 1980s’ PCs to today’s empowered technologies – the reaction was the swinging pendulum of “decentralized/embedded IT” followed by “centralized/industrialized IT.” These tired old reactions won’t work in the world 2020. Instead, businesses must move to a model we call Empowered BT.
Empowered BT empowers business to pursue opportunities at the edge and the grassroots – but to balance this empowerment with enterprise concerns. Key to this balance is the interplay between four new “meta roles” – visionaries, consultants, integrators, and sustainability experts – combined with a new operating model based on guidelines, mentoring, and inspection. Also key is IT changing from a mindset in which it needs to control technology to one in which it embraces business ownership of technology decisions.
The teleconference chat window was busy as James and I presented our research. Here are the questions we weren’t able to answer due to time.
Forrester has long advocated adoption of a “business technology” approach to replace traditional IT. “BT” recognizes the fundamental role information technology plays in all aspects of business – and the need for business decision-makers to be deeply involved in setting technology strategy, priorities, and even delivering solutions. But how does this tight coupling of business and technology decision-making actually work?
My colleague Alexander Peters and I have just witnessed a situation that illustrates that having the right organizational structure and technology-savvy businesspeople is crucial to a BT transition.
The organization developed an IT strategy 10 years ago based on three best practices:
Major business processes would be implemented on a single, modern, flexible platform.
The platform would employ SOA to ensure that it could adapt to unforeseen needs.
The platform would run in the consolidated, scalable, and efficient data center of a service provider.
Today, the organization has not yet achieved its top goal of a single platform for all of its major processes. It has a new SOA/Java environment, but it processes a little more than half of the required workload. Older systems do the rest. Most disturbing:
The development investment has been many times greater than expected at the outset.
The annual cost of IT operations doubled versus the baseline.
System reliability went down with the new environment.
The rise and rise of cloud has been dominating the headlines for the past few years, and for CIOs, it has become a more serious priority only recently. People like cloud computing. Well - at least they like the concept of cloud computing. It is fast to implement, affordable, and scales to business requirements easily. On closer inspection, cloud poses many challenges for organizations. For CIOs there are the considerable challenges around how you restructure your IT department and IT services to cope with the new demands that cloud computing will place on your business - and often these demands come from the business, as they start to get the idea that they can get so many more business cases over the line for new capabilities, products and/or services, as they realize that cloud computing lowers the costs and hastens the time to value.