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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What I learned from Gartner’s First Symposium in the Middle East – Dubai 2013

by Mark P. McDonald  |  March 11, 2013  |  2 Comments

Last  week more than 450 CIOs and IT executives met for Gartner’s first ever Symposium in the Middle East.  The three-day event concentrated on the digital imperatives of Focus, Connect and Lead.  Digital technology, Gartner’s Nexus of Forces, gives each of these imperatives a new and exciting context.

Based on the presentations, questions, discussions and interactions here is what I learned from working with CIOs at this first symposium. A prior post welcoming people to this year’s symposium highlights a number of issues facing organizations in the region.

Getting smarter by sharing

CIOs in the region are right to point out that their companies and context is different enough to makes it difficult to benchmark themselves against others.  CIOs in the region expressed an interest in sharing information with their regional peers to build a benchmark around budgets, resources, and other performance criteria.

I would expect in the coming year, regional firms in similar industries would sit down and begin to share basic IT performance information to produce regional benchmarks as they know and understand the market best.  Such peer information is critical in influencing future executive decisions related to technology as ‘marking yourself to the market’ to give shape to the decisions, investments and actions required in the future.

Getting closer to the business

The business orientation and intensity of IT strategies and plans came up in many of the meetings and discussions with CIOs at the event.  This is a great sign and indicative of the enterprise reaching a baseline level of automation where future benefits come less from installing IT and more from innovating the business.  In many cases, the CIOs expressed concern as their strategy and planning process have revolved around how best to allocate budget and execute projects.

This is an established issue, but it has a particular dimension in the region given the historical relationship between business and IT, the nature of senior executive teams, regulatory and competitive terms.  Concentrating on the business challenge/issue/need is the universal thing that cuts through all of these considerations.  Addressing business challenges and raising business performance should be the focus of the business and IT investments and strategies.

Business challenges are simple when they are expressed to IT in terms of building systems and solutions.  We need a CRM, ERP, Mobile app are one-sided tasks that define a rather servile relationship between technology and the business.  Breaking away from this one sided relationship often requires IT to propose their understanding of the issues and engage their peers in a conversation to bring everyone toward a shared understanding.  That understanding is a basis for business strategy and strategic relationships across the enterprise.

Getting ready of the digital world

Organizations in the region are completing building out core application systems and consolidating infrastructure and operations.  This can, but does not necessarily position organizations well for coming digital technology.  Organizations that view technology as a transaction infrastructure will find themselves challenged in a digital world.  Infrastructure may be a great way of managing business processes and accounting for business activity but it is only a foundation for the digital world.  Creating digital platforms supporting information consumption, behavior and human performance and the nexus of forces.

Getting a digital technology ecosystem

The Nexus of forces highlighted at this year’s symposium is reshaping business and its use of technology.  It should also reshape the regional technology ecosystem.  Hardware and software form the basis for IT ecosystems based on build/buy and operating new technology.  Resellers and tech companies offer product to address IT and business issues with services concentrating on implementing and supporting product.

If IT ecosystems revolve around hardware and software products, then services dominate digital technology ecosystems.  Digital technologies are lightweight in the sense that they leverage and build on existing information, processing and communications platforms.  Cloud technology is a service.  Mobility is thick with services.  Analytics and big data rely on a combination of hardware, software and services.

The CIOs and Technology Companies I met in Dubai pointed to the need to extend the ecosystem with enhanced technology services.  CIOs face additional challenges adopting new technology.  They are frustrated that providers do not give them the same range and quality of services that they give to other organizations.  Providers at the same time comment that CIOs and their organizations do not value services – that is they are not willing to pay for enhanced services as they see them as part of their product purchase.

That is the chicken and the egg situation.  “I want services not products.  I will not pay for services alone, particularly when I pay you so much for the product already.   But I know how to sell product and it is profitable. The services you want are not related to the product purchase, they are different, carry a premium and are difficult to bundle with product sales.”

Getting beyond this impasse requires everyone to go beyond prior bias and business model to transform and IT/Product ecosystem into a Technology/Services ecosystem.  That requires everyone to change from the company and provider executives, IT funding and provider operations.

So those are a few of the things I learned from talking and working with CIOs at Gartner’s first ever Symposium in the Middle East.  My deep thanks for all those who took the time to attend the sessions, meet with me and meet with my fellow Gartner analysts.  I hope to see and work with you all in the coming year.

Related Post
Link to a radio interview I gave on the Business Breakfast Show in Dubai

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