How do you identify new opportunities for IT to create value? It’s a complex question, in part because IT can create value in many ways and often ways it is not trained to see. The result is that IT often identifies new solutions in terms of the solutions they already know – or by making simple analogies to the things people already know.
This week I took 40 business and IT executives through a workshop to ‘push the envelope on technology and innovation.’ Prior workshops had identified ideas for customer service that involved matching the experience customers receive at a five star hotel as well as suggestions on how to make processes more efficient. These ideas were strong, but they reflected extensions of their current operations and products. The CIO wanted to push the envelope more, so we started with some simple ideas.
- IT is not about systems
- IT is not about applications
- IT is not about data or processes or the organization.
Those are all things that make up IT but they are not what IT is about.
Rather IT is about making the following equation work:
Intent + Information = Change and Action and that leads to results.
Generating new ideas requires taking a new perspective. In this case it’s a new equation. One that is different than People, Process and Technology or views about business value that tend to generate ideas consistent with extending and improving current operations.
In those cases we think about IT and Business operational assets rather than concentrating on the design of new things, things that take advantage of the rich information, functionality and capability of modern systems and technologies like smart phones, tablets and social media.
Breaking that mindset involved breaking people into teams around the major players involved in the company. That included customers and the company. Customers broke down into two groups: those who are about to work with the company and those that had just worked with the company. The customer perspective also included their ‘peers.’ The company included the parts that interacted with the company and the rest of the organization.
We asked the teams to do the following things:
First we asked each role to develop a list of those roles intentions. By intentions, we asked them to focus on what the individuals or groups want to accomplish. The list of intentions describes the value they receive when individuals and groups are able accomplish their intent. “Know that my purchase is the best option for me” was an example of an intent generated form the pre-sale customer group.
Next we asked the teams to identify the information involved or required to produce the intent. This helped identify the media through which the individual expresses their intent and recognizes that the intent has been met.
Last we asked people to discuss what is needed to make these intentions happen and that led the team to new solutions that looked beyond the organization’s current products, services and processes.
Intent brings an outside perspective and one that incorporates all four sources of value that go beyond just solving problems and enabling opportunities to helping people look good and feel good about themselves and others.
Expanding IT’s view and pushing the envelope are important as these types of solutions IT will need to create. If for nothing else but the case that most of the firm’s processes are already automated, integrated and available on the Internet.
The CIO’s challenge is to re-imagine how IT will create new sources of value and that starts with thinking about understanding intent, the information required to realize it and the power of changing behaviors and actions.