Mark McDonald

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Mark P. McDonald
GVP EXP
8 years at Gartner
24 years IT industry

Mark McDonald, Ph.D., is a former group vice president and head of research in Gartner Executive Programs. He is the co-author of The Social Organization with Anthony Bradley. Read Full Bio

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Amplifying the enterprise: the 2012 CIO Agenda

by Mark P. McDonald  |  January 18, 2012  |  9 Comments

Last year, CIOs responding to the Gartner Executive Programs CIO Agenda indicated that it was time to re-imagine IT.   Re-imagining IT meant recognizing that business priorities and technologies had changed enough for IT to rethink its role in the enterprise and its value proposition.  For some this meant adopting cloud technologies to reallocate resources from operations to growth and transformation. Re-imagining led others to address IT productivity and cycle time to increase business relevance.

Re-imagining the idea is powerful, but it begs the question –  Re-imagine into what?

This year’s CIO survey provides an answer – re-imagine it into an amplifier of the business.  This led to this years CIO agenda report entitled “Amplifying the Enterprise” which was announced in a press release today.

Amplification, which involves taking a signal adding energy to it and sending it externally, provides an apt metaphor for the role of technologies like mobility and cloud.  These technologies create new channels and platforms for reaching new customers, engaging existing customers and supporting revenue growth.

Amplification also involves handling feedback.  Improperly handled feedback creates that stretching noise that you here when someone uses a podium microphone while they are wearing a lapel microphone.  Feedback related technologies include analytics and social media, which provide better ways to understand and capture what, is happening inside and outside your organization.

Taken together, the signal and feedback constitute a new view on “the experience”.  For most that experience is the customer experience which is essential to driving both growth and removing unnecessary cost, for more details follow this link.

The quality of amplification rests in large part with how the amplifier eliminates distortion.  Its true that distortion can be a form of music, but there was only one Jimi Hendrix so distortion for most of us is a source of cost, complexity, poor service and things that just make it harder to get things done.  For CIOs and their business peers, technology can eliminate distortions caused by duplicative processes, applications, inefficiencies etc.

CIOs in many industries will focus exclusively on eliminating distortions in 2012 as they face severe economic, financial and other challenges.  This is the year to emphasize eliminating distortion rather than reducing the cost of distortion.

All of these points lead to the model below that positions key technologies and their role in amplifying the enterprise.

Is this model perfect, no.  But it does provide a way to think about Technology and its various roles in the enterprise.  We need a new way of thinking because the nature of Technology has become greater than the nature of traditional IT. CIOs, IT leaders and others may want to consider how their IT strategy, plans and actions support amplifying performance – turning up the value of technology without creating distortion or negative feedback.

I believe this is important because when you talk about IT most business leaders think of IT as automating back office business and management processes.  That is true, but that way of thinking leads to a view of commodity-based services or a cost-based zero-sum game.  It is not that this game is wrong, but playing a game of ‘how low can you go’ or ‘doing the same with less’ is one we have been playing.  It is one that limits an organization’s future.

Thinking about Technology as an amplifier reflects the innate capabilities of things like mobility, cloud, analytics and social media.  These technologies are  externally focused.  Without changing the way we think, we will bend externally oriented technologies back internally to fit our existing model.

Force fitting technology into old management and strategy models is a little like buying a sports car only to drive down to the grocery store.  Sure you will look cool doing it, but you could have done so much more – you could have amplified the enterprise, you could have re-imagined Technology.

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