It’s the day after Labor Day in the U.S. and the semi-official end of summer. Financially it is the last month of the third quarter. It is also the first month when all the tourists have gone home from Europe. As we settle down and come back from summer vacation it’s a good time to take stock of where we are, look at our to-do lists and figure out what we can get done before the end of the year. The year started with CIOs indicating a need to amplify the enterprise using new technologies to drive customer experience while eliminating internal distortions. Now 3/4ths of the year through its time to take a checkpoint and prepare for the final push of 2012.
In last year’s Labor Day post I covered the need to refocus the organization, to prepare for the final push of a tough year. While focus remains important, the context of that we face for the remainder of this year is just as important. This year three things dominate the close of 2012, at least in my opinion: uncertainty, digitization and inertia.
Uncertainty abounds from the future of the Euro, growth in China, the outcome of the U.S. elections, etc. It is easy to see many possible futures and most of them not best of all possible worlds. Uncertainty normally breed caution and we have certainly seen that in IT with all the talk about risk, conservative program plans and an increasing shift of resources from investment to operations.
Digitization disrupts traditional notions of business, consumers and value. Digital technologies encompass tools such as mobile computing, social media, wireless communications, big data, analytics and cloud make Technology > IT. Gartner calls this the ‘nexus of forces’. While every CIO has felt the heat of the consumerization of IT, few have really thought through the impact of digitalization and how it changes the fundamentals of the IT discipline.
Inertia crowds out innovation and compromises leadership. This is a major concern as we complete this year and plan for next. The desire to keep your head down, complete your plan and stay below the radar screen is great in an environment of uncertainly and risk. But what do you do when frugality fails? After all, if you do something and it does not work, then they have a reason to fire, cut or criticize you and IT. If you don’t feel inertia’s pull, then how is your risk tolerance? If the answer is low, then consider risk as just another word for nothing you want to do – aka inertia.
Each of these themes and there impact were the subject of a Wall Street Journal this morning featured an article entitle “Getting Back to Work: a post-vacation briefing on the state of play in energy, gadgets, retailing and six other industries.”
I guess great minds think alike, or they have been on vacation and they need a recap to get started. Be warned this is a U.S. centric view of the near future. Rather than repeat the WSJ article, here are the subtitles for each of the sections to give you an overview of the article.
Autos: Europe’s Cloud – pointing to the weak state of the European economy and its impact on automobile companies.
Energy: The Gas Glut – concentrating on the fact that business expectations are adjusting to the idea of cheap and abundant natural gas and what that means to the rest of the energy sector.
Technology: Big Fight Over Smaller Tables – looks as the race for new tablet computers coming out in the fall with releases expected from all the major players. Look for a slew of new product announcements as early as this week, lower prices, more media and a bid to make the tablet the ‘must have’ gift for the holiday season.
Industrials: Pinning Hopes on China – the uncertainty over the Chinese economy and the prospects for future growth and profits. “While China accounts for only about 7% of sales at U.S. Industrial companies, according to Credit Suisse research, it has been a major driver of growth amid sluggish markets at home and in Europe.”
Retail: Back to School ad Holiday Harbinger – asks if strong back to school shopping in the U.S. is a indication that the consumer is returning to the economy or just restocking after years of doing without. Do you stock up for a big holiday season or see back to school as a one-time event?
Telecom: Regulator Mood Hinges on Votes – highlights the structural issues associated with major regulatory decisions related to spectrum sales, pricing models and competition.
Publishing: Cheaper E-Books Ahead – based on a legal decision that allows retailers to discount eBook titles that will continue to drain traditional book sellers as well as sharpen competition in the eBook marketplace.
Mining: Party’s Over? – raises the specter that the natural resources boom is set to cool in the future. The article goes on to discuss that growth rates are decelerating and the impact that will have on mergers, acquisitions and orders for mining equipment.
Health: A Migration to Private Plans – places emphasis on uncertainty over the U.S. elections as well as the pending move of millions of government financed patients into private insurance plans.
Uncertainty, digitalization and inertia can be found behind these stories and have become the fabric of the last part of 2012. Things are changing, we do not know exactly where and that gives us pause before acting. In many ways 2012 is like 1995, then we faced uncertainty and we stood on the cusp of the Internet era. Do you think that we are at the edge of an abyss or is all of this turmoil and concern the churn as we transition from one set of economic conditions to another?