Gartner’s annual symposium season is gearing up. After an appearance in Cape Town South Africa in August, the next stop was Tokyo where more than 500 CIOs and IT executives gathered to discuss the current challenges and future goals for information technology.
During the symposium I had the honor of meeting with a number of companies to get a better understanding of IT in Japan. Here is what I learned from talking with and listening between the words during my conversations in Tokyo.
- Japanese companies are coming to grips with the implications of strategies that call for revenue growth from outside the home country. Japan is not alone in this challenge; but Japanese IT executives raised questions about centralization, the role of corporate culture and genuine interest in how to be a global company. These were some of the best, well thought out and deep questions I have heard from IT executives anywhere in a long time.
- There is a keen interest in the potential of new digital technologies. There is interest of these technologies both in isolation, like big data, but more importantly in combination with each other concentrating on generating revenue and cost savings. At a workshop on digitalizing the business, CIOs from leading countries demonstrated this understanding as they generated new ideas to create value through digital combination rather than traditional digital substitution strategies.
- There were a number of questions concerning IT organization structures and strategies. Japanese CIOs recognize that a change in business strategy, technology options and innovations challenge and require changes to the organization and operation of IT. The general sense of the questions revolved around a recognition to change the center of IT and its capability on the edges.
- The CIOs, IT executives and media reporters I talked with assumed that ‘more and better planning’ should solve these issues. The problem or gap they saw was in not having the right IT plans rather than considering the possibility that the way IT planned in the past will not work in the future. “How can you be wrong, if you are doing what the business wants,” was the feeling I got from talking with these CIOs.
- The IT professionals I spoke with were concerned that they would not be given the opportunity to strengthen IT before taking on new responsibilities or committing to new performance goals. The idea of ‘painting the train while its moving’ was met with reactions that such approaches were wasteful, disruptive and created interim solutions that would be thrown away in the future. The challenge is that in a world increasingly driven by external demands, that is exactly what is required to create value and IT capability.
These were some of the impressions I had reflecting on the three days of discussions, presentations and interactions in Tokyo.
What impressed me most about these interactions was the real and serious interest in learning new ways to handle the new challenges created by economic, technological and business forces. This was a change from years past, when CIOs had rather narrow and specific questions that generally concentrated on optimizing their current models.
The impressions above are my own and I am sure others came away with different impressions and experiences. But as I relfect on the experience, this year’s questions were broader, more fundamental and more foundational to IT. CIOs and IT executives know that its time to re-imagine IT and they used their participation at Symposium to understand what re-imagination means before launching off on the next generation of IT.