Isn't It Time CEOs Were Held Accountable For Technology?

I realize I'm posting two rants in a row here (my last one was on marketing being a dirty word), but this is important! I just read in the WSJ that it's time more CIOs report to the top... my initial reaction was "oh come on, really, are we still on with this old chestnut?" -- the thing is, I couldn't agree more. But here's what gets me -- we were saying this in the '80s. The hope back then was that, as more CEOs stepped up who had grown up with technology, things would change and more CIOs would report into the CEO. Clearly this was pie-in-the-sky optimism ... so what went wrong?

Traditional wisdom (aka analysts) suggests that it's up to the CIO to "earn" a seat at the table by demonstrating leadership, delivering business value from IT, and lots of other hoops to jump through. While my colleagues and I work diligently on research to help CIOs achieve this, I can't help feeling there is an alternative perspective we are missing, and that's what drove me to write this blog post.

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When Did Marketing Become A Dirty Word?

I'm going to date myself here, but in the early 90's when I was working in IT, I created a new role: "IT Marketing and Services." In defining the role, I was quite deliberate about my choice of words -- especially in the use of "marketing." This role was responsible for all customer-facing aspects of IT -- that included IT business relationship managers (yes we had them back in the early 90's), help desk, training, communications (of the PR kind), demand management and planning. I chose the word "marketing" deliberately to reflect the fact that this was a customer-facing responsibility (both internal IT customers and end-customers of the business from a technology perspective).

Twenty years on, and the number of IT professionals who really understand marketing and recognize the importance of marketing as a key component of IT operating strategy has, if anything, declined. Why?

Often when I ask CIOs today about the role of marketing in IT they are overcome with concern about using the term "marketing" in the context of IT. They believe people across the organization will think there is no role for marketing in IT, and that having anyone with a "marketing" title will suggest IT has too much money. Why does this fundamental misunderstanding of marketing perpetuate throughout organizations? So many otherwise knowledgeable executives think marketing is simply advertising or worse "spin." Do "marketing" job titles in IT really suggest that CIOs are trying to "sell" IT to the rest of the business? I wonder if this is a problem for IT or if it is an issue created by the perception of others outside of IT.

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Do You Need An IT Execution Plan For Social Business Strategy?

Social technology is coming into every organization whether IT wants it or not. The adoption of social technologies to support business and customer needs has been fastest outside of IT — often with IT playing catch-up and struggling to provide value. CIOs are at a crossroads where they can either choose to lead IT toward social business maturity or sit back and watch as the rest of the organization pushes ahead, leaving IT in social business obscurity. The choice is easy, but the execution is difficult. A new report — Social Business Strategy: An IT Execution Plan — suggests CIOs should assess the organization’s current social maturity and implement a plan that positions IT to successfully support a social business strategy.

Organizations are broadly categorized as social laggards, internally mature, externally mature or enterprise mature. The approach recommended for CIOs differs based on the maturity level. For example, CIOs in organizations with strong internal maturity should focus on developing a partnership with marketing in order to extend the use of social strategy out to customers and business partners.

Understand your social maturity

While very few organizations are already at the enterprise maturity level, CIOs in these organizations can take an active role in developing social business strategy by supporting the creation of a social business council and dedicating staff to support social strategy.

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What Can CIOs Learn From Marketing?

Play House at Forrester Marketing Forum 2011This week I was the lone IT analyst attending Forrester's Marketing Forum (Twitter #fmf11). Although I was there because much of my research overlaps with my colleagues covering marketing roles, I can't help feeling CIOs are missing out by not attending this event.

For many years I have believed that a successful CIO must understand marketing -- especially if he/she ever aspires to the CEO or COO role. Although today's marketing professional is more dependent upon technology than ever before, marketing is too often the part of the business least understood by IT.

With awareness comes understanding: which is why I think it is essential for IT professionals, and especially CIOs, to attend conferences like the Marketing Forum. These events help develop a much greater understanding of the challenges faced by the marketing professionals in your organization -- and will no doubt stimulate many new ideas about how IT can help.

Here's just a sampling of some of the thinking heard at the Marketing Forum this week in San Francisco:

We heard from Practice Leader David Cooperstein that CMOs are suffering a crisis of confidence: most feel they don't have enough budget, executive support, or marketing technology to meet the new digital challenge. (The CIO message: your CMO shares your pain.)

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How Secure Is Your Dumbest Friend?

You are only as secure as your dumbest friendFunnily enough, this was the question that came up at a workshop on social technology strategy, which I ran to coincide with the publication of “Social Business Strategy.” To put it into context, we were discussing the development of social media policy guidelines and how secure Facebook is as a social network. One of the participants was suggesting that Facebook can be secure because you can restrict the content to be visible to just your friends. At this point another participant jumps in with this wonderful one-line response:

“Yeah, but you are only as secure as your dumbest friend!”

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Social Networks: Good Or Evil?

As we witness truly historic events in the Middle East brought about in part by citizens empowered by social networks, we are also seeing disturbing trends that may yet result in social networks becoming a force for evil. 

A client recently pointed out how timely this sentence was from my recent report on social innovation networks:

“Even state and local government services are not immune as disgruntled citizens quickly assemble and make their voices heard, potentially to the point of toppling unpopular leaders.”

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Social Business Strategy

Social technology is certainly a hot topic, but for many CIOs the emergence of islands of social technology across the enterprise feels like a touch of déjà vu.
 
IT has been here before, having to clean up islands of automation that left organizations unable to coordinate information and react rapidly to changing market dynamics. Many organizations are already pressing ahead with multiple social media initiatives aimed at solving business or customer challenges — and that's preferable to doing nothing. But should CIOs help their organization step back and take a more strategic perspective on social technologies? By doing so, I believe CIOs can help avoid integration challenges down the road. 
 
I'm suggesting that the more mature organizations (where social technology is well-established) should begin to refocus social technology efforts in support of a broader business strategy. At the same time, IT needs to help ensure the technologies being deployed meet the technology architecture needs of the business of today and tomorrow.
 
This is the subject of a recent report called "Social Business Strategy." The research takes a strategic look at how organizations are using social technologies and reinforces the suggestion that CEOs need to establish a social business council. We need to think beyond point solutions in order to maximize competitive advantage.
 
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Retail 2020

Retail 2020?What will retail will look like in 10 years? This is an important question for many CIOs and CEOs, and not just those in the retail sector.

To get a feel for the future of retailing, earlier this month I made my annual pilgrimage to the National Retail Federation (NRF) conference and expo in New York. The most significant difference I noticed between this year and last year was that in 2010 everyone was talking about multichannel retail while keeping an eye on social technologies as a future trend. This year the buzz was around full channel integration/retail-anywhere or what might be called "zero-channel retail."
 
Zero-Channel Retail
For many years retailing has been broken out into "channels" based upon how products are put into the hands of the consumer. Channels include: retail stores, outlet stores, Internet, catalog, etc. In the past each channel was managed independently of the others (recall how some retailers actually created separate companies to run their Internet retail business). Last year there was a big focus on how to integrate online and physical retail into one, seamless channel.
 
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10 From 2010

Looking back on 2010, I put together a list of my top 10 favorite things that made a difference in my year and was surprised to see how heavily travel featured in my list:

Pandora One:  I love listening to music while working, so my iPod is always close by. But this year I discovered Pandora – a music streaming service that finds and plays songs based around any favorite song you use to seed it. You can create multiple “stations” around different songs, composers, bands and even combine multiple seed songs on one station. I have created music stations for every genre of music to suit my mood. For example, while writing research I listen to one of six classical stations and while chilling with a glass of my favorite wine I listen to a station I called… "glass of wine radio"! Pandora offers a free version supported by ads and a premium version, Pandora One, which offers unlimited high-fidelity ad-free streaming for $36 a year. This year I moved to Pandora One because I wanted the higher-quality music feed and I love finding new music through Pandora. I regularly listen to Pandora on my PC, through the desktop app, and on my BlackBerry, which I connect to my home audio system to play music back through my hi-fi. http://www.pandora.com

Netflix Watch Instantly: I don’t watch a lot of TV, but my wife and I are real movie buffs so having easy access to movies through streaming is a big deal for us. We love the variety available through Netflix and their watch instantly service. As well as watching movies, we also find ourselves watching TV series through the service. http://netflix.com

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How To Develop A Social Innovation Network

Customers already use social technologies to wrest power away from large corporations. Now employees are adapting social technologies in pursuit of innovations to support these empowered customers; Forrester calls these employees HEROes (highly empowered and resourceful operatives). By designing social technologies as part of their Innovation Networks, CIOs and their IT teams help establish new Social Innovation Networks — innovation ecosystems employing social technologies to enhance HEROes' innovations. These Social Innovation Networks help drive faster, more effective innovation across the enterprise. And CIOs must rise to the challenge of nurturing and developing these networks while structuring their IT teams to fully support them.

In an earlier post, I described how we’re entering a new era of social innovation. Building on these concepts in subsequent research has led to the latest report “CIOs: Support HEROes – Create Social Innovation Networks Using The PACT Framework” (and yes, I’m guilty of introducing yet another acronym).

PACT: Process, advocates, culture, and technology

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