By the end of January, we’ve typically had most of the annual top 10 lists from analysts and vendors pushing what they believe (hope?) will be the coming year’s big technology trends. (For a decent roundup, check out this list.)
And while there’s new technology being developed on a daily basis to help businesses improve their operations, speed-to-market, decision-making and, ultimately, their bottom line, at Meet The Boss we’ve taken a slightly different tack.
Rather than merely highlight which new technologies will dominate IT department water cooler conversations (here’s to self-driving cars,augmented reality glasses and flexible smartphones) we’ve outlined six priority areas for CIOs to focus on in order to drive real value into their departments and ensure IT plays a strategic role in the growth of the business.
Because let’s face it: if we’re talking CIO watchwords for 2013, most IT departments are not going to look further than cloud, mobile, social, big data and the growing consumerisation of IT…
#1: Recognise the cloud is not about technology
We’ll forgive you if Cloud fatigue is starting to set in. After all, it’s been touted as a CIO priority for years now. The difference this year, however, is that questions around the Cloud are finally being framed in a business, rather than a technology, context.
Over at Forbes, Oracle’s Bob Evans believes that:
Cloud projects will not be judged on their technical merits or on hitting their go-live dates, but rather by how deeply they impact essential business-transformation initiatives, and by how much business value and opportunity they unlocked.
The message is clear: Cloud is no longer an IT issue, it’s about enabling business transformation. And without significant organisational realignment and improved business participation, your technical efforts will largely be wasted. With services and new security systems emerging to support an increasingly mobile, transitory, and flexible workforce, it’s time to stop getting mired in the tech challenges and start working with that workforce to figure out how the implementation of cloud-based technologies and services can deliver real business value.
#2: Understand why consumerisation is the new business norm
All year CIOs have been agonising over how to manage the ‘bring your own device’ trend. And if you haven’t already worked out your strategy, you better do it quick, because in 2013 BYOD will become the default mode for most workers, with the days of IT departments being dominant providers of all IT equipment and support coming to an end.
What’s more, 2013 will also see the IT challenge shift from bring your own device to bring your own app. Mobile devices themselves only form part of the management challenge for CIOs in 2013; workers are increasingly using third-party apps on those devices to perform daily business tasks, often as workarounds to official, IT-sanctioned solutions.
And the rise of BYOD/BYOA is just the tip of the iceberg: consumerisation is seeping into every aspect of IT, and is affecting everything from hardware infrastructure to how an enterprise designs employee and customer-facing systems, tools and software. Consumerisation has implications on cost, compliance, security, branding and culture – and knowing how to address such concerns will be key as consumer tech continues to infiltrate the workplace.
#3: Enable your organisation to become a social enterprise
Here’s the thing: most firms can’t even agree on a definition for ‘social enterprise’, much less capitalise on the many benefits social can bring. It’s still very much a nascent trend.
But social provides opportunities for real-time customer insights, engagements and processes. It can win new business, with nearly a third of both employees and managers believing that social media can help attract new customers. Beyond customers, the social revolution is also becoming indispensable internally for motivating existing employees and recruiting great new talent, and in forging deeper and more-valuable relationships with partners.
Social’s need to link into the databases, infrastructure, and processes managed by IT will mandate that the CIO will be critical in helping move social out of the marketing department and into the business as a whole. Having the right policies, governance structures and frameworks in place for managing the widespread adoption of social at all levels of the enterprise will be critical.
#4: Embrace data – whatever its size
Big data will be huge this year, offering opportunities to help businesses better understand their markets and customers, and even predict what's next. But as with Cloud, disillusionment is already starting to set in, according to a recent Gartner report.
Gartner argues it’s a natural part of the technology maturation process, as firms go through the standard trial-and-error/experimentation period – but it could also be the result of businesses trying to run before they can walk. Because in order for Big Data to provide you with the answers that you need to improve your business, you need to know what questions to ask in the first place.
The lesson? In the rush to jump on the latest technology bandwagon, don’t get sidetracked. The real issue should be first using whatever data you do have – regardless of its size – to enable better decision-making by asking the right questions. Traditional analytics are still important in getting a handle on the specifics of your business; only then can you start thinking about how to go about getting the answers you need.
#5: Simplify your approach
The past decade has been a hymn to managing complexity, with CIOs attempting to tie together vital but disparate systems and networks with an ever-increasing array of products and services, often from multiple vendors and based on a multitude of different technology platforms. The result? IT sprawl.
But a complex and poorly understood application portfolio or IT environment can consume a huge percentage of the IT budget and management resources – resources that could better be spent on delivering innovative services and systems that give your business a genuine competitive edge. CIOs need to change the mindset around managing complexity, developing new, streamlined architectures rather than merely bolting on to the existing plan.
Simplification is about a couple of things: it’s about increasing agility; it’s about reducing and better managing risk; and it’s about freeing up capacity and resources for innovation. It won’t be easy. But the CIO who can think strategically about how to deliver modern apps that embrace cloud, mobility, big data analytics and social capabilities – without adding to complexity – will be looked upon as an organisational hero.
#6: Finally... think like a marketer
We’ve heard a lot over the past year about how marketing is taking over the technology budget, with Gartner predicting CMOs will spend more on IT than the CIO by 2017.
Without doubt, marketing needs IT. But in a world where the CIO increasingly needs to communicate the value of what IT is doing, there’s much IT can learn from the marketing function, too. Any transformation is as much about marketing the change as it is about actually executing it – and IT can definitely improve in this area.
Too many CIOs get stuck discussing budgets or technology rather than their contributions to the organisation. So think like a marketer: get inside the heads of your customers, understand their needs, wants and how you can make yourself relevant to them, and your value to the organisation will increase dramatically.
Interested in finding out more? Don't forget to register for one of many MeetTheBoss TV Roundtables taking place in the next six weeks. From IT Security to Big Data, Online video to Digital Marketing – become part of the conversation from the comfort of your own office.