2012 has been one of extremes from a continued deepening of the global financial crisis, to the U.S. National Elections; to the rapid take-up of digital technology this year has been one of transition. “The more things change the more things seem to stay the same,” to paraphrase Yogi Berra. From and IT perspective, the game has fundamentally changed as the nature of technology has changed.
What used to be back office IT systems, responsible for handling the accounting for business transactions has become a set of digital technologies responsible for initiating and delivering business results. Business executive interest in digital technology (mobile, big data-analytics, social and cloud) is simple. Digital is a new place where people are spending time and doing things in new ways.
Lets break this down to understand why:
- Digital is a new place, meaning that there are no incumbents, there are no existing dominant players, the field is open and opportunity is there. But it is a field that is getting crowded fast and once crowded it will be hard to muscle your way onto the field.
- Digital is capturing attention. Attention is a zero sum game. The thing that marketer’s crave and the object of much of their efforts. Given the finite amount of attention we have, every moment spent with these technologies costs you a customer. Attention is the world’s scarcest commodity. So executives will go to great lengths to get it.
- Digital is where people do things like compare prices; make reservations, share information, etc. Wherever people do things, there is an opportunity for products and services. Nowhere is this more evident than in Mobile Commerce. When people could only make phone calls on a mobile device, they were largely the domains of the telecommunications carriers. But as soon as people started paying attention and spending time communicating via mobile technology, people started to ask what else could you do, then came mobile data and finally the smart phone.
- Digital gives people new ways to do these things. This is the business equivalent of redemption for a company’s past failings. New ways means that a business has an opportunity to slip away from their past, complex, non-customer focused processes and create new experiences, via new technology in a place where customers are spending more time. There will not be another open space to relaunch your company for a very long time.
A new place, where people spend time, doing things and open to do them in new ways, digital creates an unprecedented opportunity for technology to amplify the enterprise. It creates a space to change the customer experience, value proposition and release new innovations.
That is why people are interested about the opportunities for a digital edge.
It is also why this year and next is critical for technology in general and IT in particular. During this year’s Gartner Symposium season, the future CIO agenda was presented under the theme Amplifying the Enterprise. The figure below represents a graphic of that presentation and a summary of that discussion.
2012 was a year when leaders did more than pilot digital technology. They rolled out new solutions, extensions; build relationships etc. in recognition of the business potential mentioned above. 2013 must be a year when CIOs and IT recognize and actively evolve toward a more digital stance – lets call it Digital IT.
You see a changing set of circumstances requires at least investigating the need to change your current operations. For many in IT, digital technology represents a threat, a change, something to respond to rather than an opportunity, something different and an opportunity to amplify your role.
- It is easy to see digital as just another version of eCommerce. At some level, it is the grandson of eCommerce and presents many of the same challenges.
- It is easy to say we would if we could but we do not have the funding, skills, or permission to become digital – better to stick to what we know than risk failure in the future.
- It is easy to say that digital technology is a fad, business will lose interest and after all every digital technology needs to integrate with legacy to make it work. That is true but an argument for people who want to be controlled by circumstance rather than shape it.
2013 is critical for IT because while the fundamentals of IT remain solid, the world outside IT has changed dramatically. IT has felt those changes in terms of blunt force trauma done to the IT budget; IT’s role, and IT skills. A decade of devaluation, a desert of technology innovation, a world where risk is a reason to step back have left many in IT on the back foot.
The world outside of IT has changed. It is move volatile, uncertain, chaotic and amplified. It is a world where traditional IT, with its focus on stability, predefined requirements; fully loaded resources, etc. are determents to value and performance. More than 60% of CIOs expect to muddle through 2013 by holding the rest of the world at bay with governance, portfolio management, TCO and other techniques. But as the world changes and CIOs work harder to keep IT the same, the two drift apart and that is good for no one.
So in the time between the holidays, take a step back and rather than think about all of the “More of the Same” you have to deliver in 2013 consider how the world outside of that “same” has changed and how you and your colleagues need to change with it. After all, relevance is relative and you only know you have lost relevance when it is gone.