Over the last 40 years, Information Technology, and the ways in which it has been deployed and managed have gone through several discontinuous eras in which significant changes to the business model and IT leadership have been made.
They are discontinuous because they did not grow naturally out of the previous era, but emerged often due to the development of some new technology that was not predicted. The next era we are seeing will also require a dramatically different approach and rethink.
Will businesses and CIO’s be prepared and able to rise to the challenge of this major transformation? What’s changing and why?
How it was
The 60s saw the introduction of batch data processing with simple business models and applications. In the 70s, online data processing changed the way business functioned. Technology managers mastered database and systems management, developed reliable applications, and ensured uptime. In the 80s, distributed IT emerged, with departmental IT and PCs. We implemented better systems management, architecture standards, office applications, end-user and departmental support. In the 90s, we saw extended enterprise IT systems, with common processes managed on a global basis, and addressed outsourcing, off shoring, Ebusiness, web applications, and knowledge management. It was top down, enterprise-wide, serving all employees and customers in the same way.
The next IT discontinuity has come from outside the corporation. We believe we have better IT at home than in the office. This gives rise to expectations of a customer-friendly environment, able to handle unstructured information and content, as easy to use as your iPod – in a mobile world. (We deal with some of these issues in a series of points of view on Consumerisation)
Rising to the challenge
IT has become an essential part of the brand; it extends directly to customers and partners, and increasingly how it is deployed will influence the recruitment process, and our ability to hire the people we want. Doing what we’ve always done (including throwing money at it, as with ERP and CRM) won’t work. We’ll need to deliver the interoperable and seamless performance of technologies, and that will require major re-alignment of some of the most fundamental sacred cows of IT management (Think: standards, lock down, security, control and so on).
CIOs are realising that a broad, multi-year transformation is the answer. They are rethinking the IT value chain, putting long-range back into planning, prototyping and enhancing the user experience, and changing business models to encompass culture, behaviour, incentives, and user skills. They are also not assuming that business and customers know what the requirements are, or will be.
Change as you go
Enterprise architecture, asset management, and sourcing will go to another level, with no neat little self contained projects. CIOs must sort out their priorities, base transformation on projects, measure momentum and introduce changes to business as they go.
IT executives, providers and vendors do not benefit from era discontinuities unless they can adjust appropriately by putting in place proactive programs. The place to start is assemble the team, assess the spectrum of issues to be faced, establish priorities, develop a roadmap, then track transformational progress and adjust based on learning and changing situations.
This viewpoint is based on an interview with Bruce J. Rogow, Principal of IT Odyssey and a respected CIO advisor who meets hundreds of CIOs and their teams each year. Rogow is also a former Gartner Group research director and Executive Fellow of Differentis.