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A late spring and instant summer, the CIO and Digital Technology

by Mark P. McDonald  |  April 29, 2013  |  Comments Off on A late spring and instant summer, the CIO and Digital Technology

I have just come back from a week travelling around Europe and everywhere the story was the same – spring is running a month to a month and a half behind schedule.  The temperatures in late April are below normal, the leaves are behind schedule and the first flowers of spring are just appearing.  It’s the same thing here in Chicago where I live – everything is running late.

Forecaster are predicting, at least in Chicago, that we will go from a cold, wet, cloudy spring into what they call ‘instant summer.’  The temperature will go from highs in the low 60’s one day to high’s the mid 80’s the next day.  In an instant summer you go from running the furnace at night to the air conditioner the following afternoon.

So what does that have to do with anything?

Well the idea of an “instant summer” fits as a scenario for CIOs and digital technology.  You see adoption of digital technologies is running a little late, uneven and unpredictable for multiple reasons.  But the signs for a ‘digitally instant’ organization are there.

  • Executives are anxious to understand not only what digital technologies are, but also and more importantly how do they use them to create value.  Executive attention is like sunlight heating up the organization and encouraging it into action.
  • A critical mass of organizations, according to Gartner’s CEO survey, have created a digital strategy or incorporated digital technology in to their strategy.  It is hard to act without a plan and having a plan encourages people into action.
  • Slow current rates of adoption coupled with high interest signal a demand build up for digital solutions.  Just as you cannot see the tulip bulb before it breaks through the ground, you cannot see the digital solutions that are lurking out there until they appear in the market.
  • The time it takes to build and pilot a digital solution is shorter than traditional IT, making it easy to release new capability without a protracted build project.  Digital technology based solutions can sprout up anywhere at any time without warning.

We all know that the weather will change.  But an “instant summer” of digital solutions is possible and that will take many executive teams by surprise. Surprise in the sense that executives often think about the future in terms of the recent past.  The weather for them does not change. If things have been gloomy, then they are likely to be gloomy in the near future.

Either way its worth the time to consider and prepare for an ‘instant digital summer’ by taking one or more of the following actions:

  • Look at your customers with a digital light, what apps are they using, how often are they asking for you, your products and your services to go mobile.  Technology is the brand, so what customers think, feel and ascribe to your technology they attribute to your company and its leadership team.
  • Monitor your competitors, go to their web sites, visit their locations, look at their blogs and listen for early signs of future digital capabilities.
  • Get your own garden ready, streamline and accelerate development of a few digital solutions – prioritize the ones that will give you the most customer visibility either directly or indirectly via digitally enabling sales and service personnel.
  • Prepare your organization to stop moving at the pace of a slow, dark, damp spring and get ready for the frenzy, energy and heat of summer.  Tighten up delivery schedules, challenge people to go faster, make time equal money and concentrate on harvesting business results from every technology investment.

This is no time to expect April showers to give way to May flowers.  An instant summer goes from April straight into June.

It has been a cold, late spring across the Northern Hemisphere.  This usually gives way to an instant summer.  The adoption of digital technology may work the same way as all of the sudden it seems that everything springing up is digital

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Category: digital-edge  digitalization  strategic-planning  strategy  technology  

Tags: chief-digital-officer  digital-edge  digitalization  

Mark McDonald, Ph.D., is a Vice President and Fellow Emeritus in Gartner for General Managers Program.

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