News from the Walmart front. In this Walmart vs. Target vs. Amazon world, it’s clear that Walmart has gotten the memo, err, email. Digital Business is in, bigtime. Information Technology (IT) is now integral to future success as part of the product/delivery value stream. And “Ecommerce” won.
But wait. What is “IT”, anyways? What we seem to conflate is IT as a neurolinguistic stand-in for “technology” in the business, versus “IT” as the traditional organizational department that manages technology for the enterprise.
It’s clear to me that “IT” as the department that runs datacenters, manages technology portfolios, and keeps networks humming, is receding into the background. Any CIO that defines his/her mission as solely to “keep the systems up and efficient” is on a fast path to the technology boneyard; it’s important, but not the end game. Leading edge CIOs saw this long ago.
And then there is “becoming a Digital Business”, where technology permeates everything your company does, every service or product your company delivers, every job, every thought. Amazon has turned that into a huge retail business, but even more importantly, a significant IT services business.
But the way to get there? “The way that can be known is not the constant way” (Tao Te Ching); Amazon’s way seemed opportunistic – they were the disruptor, after all. Walmart’s? They are closing stores and investing in digital. That’s another way.
How do you decide on your way? Who can you count on to lead you there? The CIO may be one answer. The Chief Marketing Officer may be another. But what’s common to whatever answer you give, there needs to be a visionary, a designer, and a strategist as part of the equation. Maybe even a team of them. Job requirements? In depth familiarity with technology. Ability to get things done. Soft skills that can convince, persuade, and sell the organization to their vision, their design, their architecture.
I like to compare the evolution of IT (the department and the practice) with the evolution of building construction. Using that as a comparison, there is a clear boundary between tradesmen – those that do the work, pour the concrete, engineer the building infrastructure – and the architect – the visionary, the listener to client needs, the strength of conviction for new directions in strategy and design.
We have that division of labor established in our organizations with how we manage technology; but we may not all be taking advantage of it. So whether you are the ecommerce head that manages technology for Walmart, or a CIO that has been tasked with that — there is a common thread for a way forward: The Architect. We have those in our organizations- enterprise architects; some of them are placed closer to the customer, some are hidden in the backroom of IT. But its important for your business to identify who those are, and get them on the team that is addressing your digital business strategy (if they aren’t already there). We’re not talking bit-head techno nerds, we are talking experienced, technology leaders with vision, that understand the business. At Gartner we call those the “vanguard enterprise architects”. Do you know where yours are? Are they helping you find “the way”? Because there is more than one way, and the future of your business depends on finding your way…
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