In 1898 there was the first international urban planning conference in New York. This conference was the first of its kind as it looked to address the challenges of the world’s fast growing cities. It’s hard to contemplate today but the main topic on the attendees’ lips was ---horse dung! That’s right, the concern was that in 50 years time cities such as London would ‘disappear’ due to nine feet of manure being generated by the horses used to transport people around the city. Well, we all know that did not happen and I am happily sitting in the comfort of Forrester’s London office –dung free. Our savior was the automobile and experts did not account for this technological innovation.
Ok, John, so what has this got to do with the future of I&O executive skills?
I needed to order a tool from Amazon.com recently, and I was greeted with a “New Year, New You” panel linking me to whole host of exercise equipment targeted to my lifestyle. Same old New Year’s resolution song-n-dance, right? Well, the idea of self-improvement in 2013 got me thinking: We keep telling the SVM world that they need to stay relevant in a Business Technology world, so we’re now showcasing specific self-improvement tools to help you feel empowered stepping into 2013. In our recent “SVM Activities, Roles, And Skills Are Evolving” report, we have outlined the root rationale for SVM’s evolution and our prescription on how to move forward:
Roles are becoming more complex. As technology spending habits change, and spending ripples outward from IT to the business, classic SVM roles (e.g., sourcing; contracts; vendor management) are broadening and deepening to include skills related to strategy, governance, and business value (see top column labels).
These roles require new skill sets and certifications. In order to fill out these new roles, SVM managers should encourage staff to grow their skill set with training and certifications in emerging categories including innovation, diversity, eco-friendly/green, globalization, and strategy (see left-hand row labels). There are a host of organizations and authoring bodies that can help you demonstrate credibility in SVM emerging impact areas.
Back in August of this year, Marc Andreessen published an essay in the WSJ highlighting his thoughts on why software's eating the world. I encourage you to read it. It highlights something we firmly believe. We’ve entered the age of software, and you’re at its center. With December upon us and many of you engaged in finalizing 2012 plans and reviewing your 3 - 5 year strategies, I encourage you to look beyond tech developments like cloud, big data, and the App Internet. Focus instead on what you need to deliver good software, and keep three things I'd gladly tell you and your CIO top of mind.
Software IS your business. This age isn't just about Borders and Amazon, game developers, or online service delivery capabilities. No, look at how software's increasingly a part of everyday life. What about your TV, your car? Heck, my wife's new ovens have software embedded in the digital display that takes all the guesswork out of baking! Whatever business you're in, be it financial services, public sector, consumer products, insurance, healthcare, energy, or logistics, you name it, you can no longer simply look at software or application development as a support function. Software IS your business.
As we move toward 2012, I can guarantee that many I&O leaders will have reviewed/defined what their strategy priorities are for the coming year, 3 years and maybe 5 years are. Hands up though: Who has had in-depth planning conversations around I&O people skill requirements?
I am not just talking about what technology skills are required to support these strategy initiatives but about I&O professional or soft skillsrequired to ensure that your I&O function survives and prospers during the evolution currently happening in the world of enterprise IT - How many hands are still up?
During a recent Forrester I&O Leadership Council meeting, I led an interactive session based on my recent I&O Council exclusive report entitled "Tomorrow’s I&O Leaders Require An Equal Blend Of Technology And Business Acumen." This session utilized the results of an I&O Council Leadership survey to analyze what skills are required by successful I&O leaders and which skills should I&O executives be looking for when recruiting high-performing teams. From a high level the results show the following:
The results may already be pretty clear to you but how will you develop business and industry experience personally? How will you work with HR to ensure that these skills are uncovered during future recruitment processes? Also take a look at the executive-level skill requirements - do you think that these are easily applicable to a CEO role as we progress through this decade?
Cash-starved. Fast-paced. Understaffed. Late nights. T-shirts. Jeans.
These descriptors are just as relevant to emerging tech startups as they are to the typical enterprise IT infrastructure and operations (I&O) department. And to improve customer focus and develop new skills, I&O professionals should apply a “startup” mentality.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to spend time with Locately, a four-person Boston-based startup putting a unique spin on customer insights and analytics: Location. By having consumers opt-in to Locately’s mobile application, media companies and brands can understand how their customers spend their time and where they go. Layered with other contextual information – such as purchases, time, and property identifiers (e.g. store names, train stops) – marketers and strategists can drive revenues and awareness, for example, by optimizing their marketing and advertising tactics or retail store placement.
The purpose of my visit to Locately was not to write this blog post, at least not initially. It was to give the team of five Research Associates that I manage exposure to a different type of technology organization than they usually have access to – the emerging tech startup. Throughout our discussion with Locately, it struck me that I&O organizations share a number of similarities with startups. In particular, here are two entrepreneurial characteristics that I&O professionals should embody in their own organizations:
Like many movements before it, IT is rapidly evolving to an industrial model. A process or profession becomes industrialized when it matures from an art form to a widespread, repeatable function with predictable result and accelerated by technology to achieve far higher levels of productivity. Results must be deterministic (trustworthy) and execution must be fast and nimble, two related but different qualities. Customer satisfaction need not be addressed directly because reliability and speed result in lower costs and higher satisfaction.
IT should learn from agriculture and manufacturing, which have perfected industrialization. In agriculture, productivity is orders of magnitude better. Genetic engineering made crops resistant to pests and environmental extremes such as droughts while simultaneously improving consistency. The industrialized evolution of farming means we can feed an expanding population with fewer farmers. It has benefits in nearly every facet of agricultural production.
Manufacturing process improvements like the assembly line and just-in-time manufacturing combined with automation and statistical quality control to ensure that we can make products faster and more consistently, at a lower cost. Most of the products we use could not exist without an industrialized model.