How Is Your IT Department Assisting The Organisation With Innovation?

Data from the Q2 2012 Forrsights Budgets And Priorities Tracker Survey shows that for nearly 70% of Australian and New Zealand organisations, the top IT management priority is to increase IT capacity or resources to drive business innovations. This focus on innovation has been reflected in numerous discussions I’ve been having with CIOs. At a panel session on innovation towards the beginning of 2012, the audience were pretty evenly split between those who believed IT has a key role to play in business innovation and those who thought innovation was not IT’s job. Now, however, innovation seems top of mind with most CIOs I speak to.

So what can your IT department do to help drive business innovation? Well – really there are lots of ways – but most importantly you can help by implementing processes that help drive “sustainable innovation”. Sustainable innovation is not small changes – and not the big changes – it is everything in the middle. I call it the “gut feel” innovation – i.e. “I have this idea and I think it could help improve the business. The thing is that I don’t have the stats to prove it can help – hence I can’t build a business case – hence we can’t put this idea through the traditional business investment process.” In a scenario like this, what you need is a process to quickly test and measure the idea to give you the data to put into the traditional business process to either move it forward or discard it as a bad idea. If fewer than 45% of your ideas move from ideation to reality you are probably testing too many “bad ideas” and you need to tighten your process to get rid of more bad ideas earlier – and on the flip side, if more than 70% of the ideas are being commercialised then you probably aren’t testing enough ideas.
 
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What Will The Future Of IT (And Technology) Look Like?

At a CIO roundtable that Forrester held recently in Sydney, I presented one of my favourite slides (originally seen in a deck from my colleague Ted Schadler) about what has happened r.e. technology since January 2007 (a little over five years ago). The slide goes like this: 

Source: Forrester Research, 2012

This makes me wonder: what the next five years will hold for us? Forecasts tend to be made assuming most things remain the same – and I bet in 2007 few people saw all of these changes coming… What unforeseen changes might we see?

  • Will the whole concept of the enterprise disappear as barriers to entry disappear across many market segments?
  • Will the next generation reject the “public persona” that is typical in the Facebook generation and perhaps return to “traditional values”?
  • How will markets respond to the aging consumer in nearly every economy?
  • How will environmental concerns play out in consumer and business technology purchases and deployments?
  • How will the changing face of cities change consumer behaviors and demands?
  • Will artificial intelligence (AI) technologies and capabilities completely redefine business?
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Pitney Bowes Reinvents To Become A Company For Today And Tomorrow

I recently spent a few days in Connecticut, USA, with Pitney Bowes. So why, you ask, is a CIO advisor who spends most of his time talking about the future of business technology in Asia Pacific spending time with a company that makes machines that stamp mail? That is a good question, and one I hope to answer while at the same time showing where I believe Pitney Bowes can help in your organisation.

So Pitney Bowes stamps mail. Yes — but they see it differently. They see that they enable communications with customers. Interesting. But mail is declining — right? Yes, it is, and Pitney Bowes has made many acquisitions to position itself as the leader in the digital mail space. And they have gone from just providing the communications capability to working across the entire customer lifecycle. Acquisitions of Portrait Software, MapInfo, Group 1 Software and many of the other firms they have acquired in the last 10 years have given them the ability to do:

-       Customer profiling and segmentation
-       Data preparation and composition
-       Multi-channel customer output
-       Customer response management
-       Response analysis

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Can Dell Be Your Strategic Vendor In Asia Pacific?

I recently had the chance to spend some quality time with Dell in Singapore at their event for Forrester analysts in the Asia Pacific region. As Dell is a company traditionally known for its hardware products, I had low expectations – to date, few of my CIO clients would consider Dell a “strategic” supplier.

However, I was pleasantly surprised – Dell is reinventing itself from a PC and server supplier into an IT solutions provider. The benefits of the acquisition of Perot Systems and various software assets in North America and around the globe are starting to pay dividends in Asia Pacific.

As a late entrant into many of the newer markets they play in, they have the rare advantage of being able to do things differently – both from a solution and a pricing standpoint. From data centre transformation through legacy migration and application modernisation, to networking solutions, Dell is attempting to be disruptive player in the market – simplifying processes that were typically human-centric, and automating capabilities to reduce the overall burden of owning and running infrastructure.

Their strategy is to stay close to what they know – much of their capability is linked directly to infrastructure – but their open, modular, and somewhat vendor agnostic approach is in direct opposition to the “vendor lock-in” solutions that many of the other major vendors push.

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What, Exactly, Is A Strategy?

 

I work with a lot of CIOs and heads of strategy in Australia and the Asia Pacific area – particularly concerning the development and updating of their IT strategies. As a part of our strategy document review service, I have seen plenty of approaches to IT strategies – from “on a single page” position statements through to hugely detailed documents that outline every project that will take place over the next 5-10 years.

While it can be argued that an IT strategy can’t really be strategic at all if it is just responding to business needs and requests (isn’t that just an IT plan?), the broader question of “what, exactly is a strategy?” is rarely touched upon.

I was fortunate to be invited to TCS’s recent Australian customer summit in Sydney. I was particularly attracted by the high caliber of the speakers and audience. One of the speakers whose presentation I found fascinating was Richard Rumelt, from UCLA Anderson – author of the book Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters. His presentation focused on “what makes a good strategy, and how do you identify a bad one.” I really like his definition of what a strategy is:

A strategy is a coherent mix of policy and action designed to surmount a high-stakes challenge.

The basis of a good strategy is to diagnose the challenge, develop a guiding policy and create coherent policies and actions.

You know it’s a bad strategy when it:

-          Is all performance goals (i.e., we plan to increase our profit margin by 30% by 2015)

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Do Asian organisations still need IT departments?

The shift towards the empowered consumer and employee is no more obvious than in Asia - particularly in Singapore, where a recent Google study showed that smartphone penetration is a whopping 62% (compared to 31% in the US). In fact, of the 11 countries in Asia surveyed, four of them (Singapore, Australia - 37%, Hong Kong - 35%, Urban China - 35%) had higher smartphone penetration rates than the US (and amongst 18-29 year olds, 84% of Singaporeans had smartphones, compared to 47% in the US!). With many of the more populous countries having young populations (average age: Philippines - 22.9, China - 35.5, India - 26.2, Indonesia - 28.2 - see World Factbook), the gen Y factor is driving employees to question whether the current way of working makes the most sense.

With so many young, mobile and connected employees, it is no surprise that CIOs across the region regularly complain about the company staff self-deploying devices, applications and services from the web or from app stores. The attitude of many IT shops is to shut it down - interestingly, the whole concept of "empowered employees" is quite "taboo" in some countries across the Asia Pacific region. A CIO recently told me that "smartphones and social media have come five years too soon" - referring to the fact he is planning to retire in five years, and that these technology-centric services are proving to be quite a headache for his IT department!

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Finding the right vendor partner for your IT organization: HCL

Over the past few months I have had the opportunity to spend some quality time with a number of IT vendors such as HCL, Fujitsu, Oracle, and Dell. This has been some time coming, but over the next few weeks I am taking the opportunity to summarize the overall perceptions I have received from these vendors when evaluating them from a CIO perspective - i.e. as a potential partner for your IT organization and your business. Today I'll tackle HCL, and will move onto the other vendors throughout January. The goal of these blog posts is to give an overall perception of the vendors - something that we don't particularly capture so well in a Wave or vendor analysis where we are focusing on one particular capability of a large vendor. I am trying to capture the "culture" or "style" of the vendor, as this is something that is hard to include in a Forrester Wave, but it IS something that makes a significant difference to the partnership in the longer term.

HCL. A company that is comfortable in its own skin.

That is the way I would summarize HCL. They are a company that know where they have come from and know where they are now, and have a pretty good idea that in five years time they will be nothing like they were or are. They don't know what that future is, but they know they have to put the capabilities in place to ensure the organization can effectively morph into that future form in order to achieve longer term success. Employees First, Customers Second is the first step on this pathway, but it is only that. It will not shape the company that HCL is tomorrow, but it will probably provide the groundwork and internal culture to allow the smoother change.

Confident. Capable.

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Yes -- Some IT Projects Fail. But Don't Throw The Baby Out With The Bathwater

There has been a lot of negative press and commentary regarding the recent Queensland Health Implementation of Continuity Project (SAP HR and Payroll), which recently experienced a very public failure as many employees were not paid due to multiple points of failure in the project. The recent Auditor-General's Report on the process is damning, spreading the blame across multiple agencies and the systems integration partner, IBM. I make no claims to be familiar with the intricate details of the process, but I have read the report and feel I have a clear understanding of the (many!)  points of failure. 

While this project did seem to be a monumental failure, I would suggest that we consider two important facts:

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Will IT Vendors Start Selling Cars?

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.

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What CIOs Should Know/Do About HP's Acquisition Of Palm

HP's acquisition of Palm is all over the twitterverse at the moment. And everyone has an opinion on it, and what it means (which brings to mind one of my favorite movie quotes). There are precious few facts around at present - and only time will tell exactly how the acquisition will pan out. Either way, CIOs should know the following facts about HP and the acquisition of Palm:

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