Gartner’s first Fall Symposia and ITXpo in Barcelona is complete. I am writing this blog post on my iPad while I am flying to Frankfurt to start the trip to Australia and the Symposium there. It has been a rather full week with hundreds of presentations, meetings, more than 50 CIO workshops, thought leadership presentations, etc.
While there were a few operational glitches, it was the first time at this location, overall the CIOs I spoke with were pleased with the experience, exercised their issues and exchanged their ideas. CIOs face the need to find new answers to new questions in an increasingly complex set of economic, operational and financial contexts. Change is on the agenda of the CIO.
Economics and the debit crisis provided an important context to the event, particularly given events in Italy that happened while the symposium was in session. I will talk more about that at the end of this post.
In years past, CIOs faced a similar tide of change. This year there is no single type of change that is pervasive across the CIOs. This makes 2012 different from 2008/2009 where there was change all in the direction of cost control. CIOs are changing to support growth initiatives in Asia and Latin America. CIOs are changing in response to new strategies or regulatory requirements. And yes, CIOs are changing to reduce costs.
While every one recognizes the need to change, the nature, dricection and challenges of that change are increasnlgy company and contextually specific. In this regard there is no “European” view on IT for CIOs as each faces their own context and challenges.
Change is at the top of the agenda, but unlike 2008 – 2009, when everyone was changing in the same direction — cutting budgets — change comes in many flavors.
Here are a few things that stick with me as I leave Barcelona.
- European firms are going through structural change in response to the structural economic and business challenges. There is no clear pattern as some are breaking their companies into smaller divisions while others are consolidating and standardizing to save cost. These changes are not temporary indicating that leadership believes the current conditions are not temporary.
- The existence of fragmented applications, data centers and operations is a particular target as financial conditions have opened the door to deeper change than simply holding the budget line on spending. Eliminating the results of accretive change is increasing CIO visibility at the board level and creating new conversations with their business peers.
- Mobility is a hot topic and one that appears to be at the peak of expectations in Europe. The discussions I had related to mobility, tablet devices, etc revolved around understanding how they created value in practice rather than in theory. The CIOs I spoke with were looking for hard and demonstrable facts rather than relying on the novelty of consumer technologies to create value. Clearly in this area CIOs have a focus on the longer term rather than the quick value of meeting consumer needs.
- Interest in Social Media was strong, particularly from the perspective of how social media works within a company. CIOs raised questions and comments regarding issues of individual behavior, free speech, expression and how mass collaboration actually works in a company. CIO questions reflected an understandable degree of guarded optimism skepticism as they wnat to know how it works before putting it into practice. You can assess your organization’s attitudes toward social media by taking The Social Organization Book’s assessment gartner.com/socialreadiness
- Cloud computing and sourcing showed renewed interest with discussions centering on actions and plans more than concepts or ideas. It seems that European firms that had previously thought about these issues, dipped their toes into them were looking to take action in 2012.
- CIOs are facing the need to drive transformation programs in order to meet externally defined requirements and regulations. The level of transformation and structural change driven by EU legislation appeared to be more on CIOs minds this year than previously. In some cases, EU legislation is requiring industry restructuring, redefining the boundaries of business in Utilities, Law Enforcement and other areas.
Change requires new answers and new actions. This creates the impression that CIOs and their organizations are more or less the same as they share similar plans and priority. Such a view is incomplete as the differences between CIOs in general and European CIOs in particular has never been greater.
Look to the questions that CIOs are answering and the differences emerge. There appear to be three sets of questions facing CIOs all of which can be addressed with similar plans but to very different results.
New Questions / New Opportunities CIOs facing new questions about growth, channel expansion and overseas operations face a future similar to other multi-national companies. There questions are new questions about to compete in growth markets primarily in Asia and Latin America. These questions revolve around using technology (including IT) to extend enterprise capabilities and raise the customer experience.
Old Questions / New Answers CIOs facie old questions about cost cutting, consolidation, expense reduction. They plan to use new technologies such as internet-based services to lower their operational costs, mobility to get high value functionality in to the field, and improve operational efficiency. Theses CIOs are establishing a new argument around IT as a source of productivity.
Old Questions / Old Answers These CIOs face having to dust off their cost cutting plans and repeating the actions they took in 2008 and 2009. Organizations implementing plans that call for ATB (across the board) cuts of 10, or , 20, or even 40% fall into this category. Repeating the past in hope of a different outcome is a sign of weak management and ATB cuts is a potent indicator that leadership needs new questions.
Regardless of the questions you face, the time to act is now.
If your organization has been holding back on spending cuts by budgeting them for year 4 or 5 in hopes of better economic conditions, then you have lost that bet. 2012 is year 4 of that 2008 plan. It is time to make the changes you hoped you could avoid.
Action is required for the simple reason that financial crisis are particularly caustic to an economy. THey create the illusion that things are temporary, they lead to band-aid approaches to bail-out players at risk, the stifle the need for deep reform.
Inaction leads to ‘muddling through’ which only turns a CRISIS into a CHRONIC CONDITION. How CIOs re-imagine IT and lead from the front will determining the extent to which IT contributes to that condition.
Please share your thoughts and experiences from Barcelona.