The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

Strategy, Execution and IT

strategic thinking.pngRecently, I was looking at a video about business strategy and execution from the Strategy+Business blog. It talked about the five major questions a business strategy needs to answer:

  1. What businesses should we be in?

  2. How will we add value to that business?

  3. What is our target customer?

  4. What’s the value proposition for those customers?

  5. What are the capabilities we need to be distinctive for those customers?

It also discussed how easy it can be to confuse what it takes to execute a strategy with the strategy itself (e.g., a plan).

 

The video made me think about the role of IT today and how it may be perceived. Do we look at our various investments from the perspective of answering these kinds of questions or do we just look to cut costs. That difference in behavior is one of the greatest differences between an IT organization that is crucial to the business and one that is just an enabler of the business.

 

Many times I’ve mentioned the need for portfolio management within the applications of an enterprise and the fact that it may be as important what you turn off as what you turn on. In a recent discussion with an analyst about Enterprise Architecture they really downplayed the role of the current situation analysis and listening to this video just reinforced how much this value added assessment of the current portfolio can be, since by turning off those systems you free up resources to actually be strategic.

 

The business should be able to relate to a decision based on this strategic perspective, since that’s likely how they think about what they deliver to the market.

 

When planning for the future it can often require an active decision to totally break from the past approach and try a new one. This can be very risky, but there are also risks hanging on to changes that are long overdue – because we’ve always done it that way.

 

Information revolution impact assessment in the balance

 

level.pngThere was a recent article in The Futurist discussing The Information Revolution's BROKEN PROMISES that was a bit disturbing – at least to me.

 

It described 8 grand promises that seemed to have fallen short:

  1. The Internet Will Create a "New Economy"

  2. The Internet Will Create a World Community

  3. The Digital Age Will Make Us All Get Smarter

  4. The Digital Generation Will Save Us

  5. Digital Technologies Will Narrow the Wealth Gap

  6. The Internet Will Spread Democracy

  7. The Internet Will Make Us Better Informed

  8. Everyone Gets to Be a Publisher

I found the article an example of how we can perceive things vs. what the masses actually wanted. In many cases, we did reach that these promise defined, it’s just that the article’s author didn’t like the results and viewed them as being off-center. Let’s just take the last two:

  • The Internet will make us better informed – There is no doubt there is more information out there from more perspectives than we could ever access back in the 80s. It is true that we can self-select down into some very narrow views of the world if we want but we can also broaden our view to encompass implications that were unimaginable from the isolated views available in the pre-internet age.

  • Everyone gets to be a publisher – It doesn’t take much investment to get your perspective out to others in a wide variety of formats: e-books, blogs, podcasts… Yes, the quality varies widely, but what did the author expect. Just because most people can go outside and walk/run doesn’t mean we’ll all be able to run a world-class marathon, the first time out (or ever).

We can all bemoan the gap between the ideal and reality for the masses, since there will always be a gap. What we control is our own contribution and effect – are we making the most of the internet revolution. It is better to take responsibility, invest and attempt to take control rather than sit on the sidelines and jeer at the performance of others.

  

Perspective business and technical leaders should take this view, since it is almost the definition of leadership. Don’t let perfection be the barrier to good enough. What changes can be made to improve our products and services using the abundance of capabilities available today? Who needs that little bit of help in getting the ball down the field? We can all help make it happen.

 

A bit more on strategy and change

 

questionsandanswers.jpgI got a note that my previous post on strategy and change was a bit too terse. I made assumptions that people understood my references. Since that post was an excerpt from one slide of a longer presentation, I may not have given enough context to understand the bullets. I’ll take another crack at providing context (through links). Hopefully between the two posts, I can answer the questions and get the points across.

 

  • Many of the factors that enable change are predictable – in the presentation I talk about how there are laws like Moore’s law (and a number of others) that can be used to predict what the future will be like. People can think about their corporate goals, investment plans and other drivers as well as the timeframe for investment… and extrapolate out the types of technology that should be available and what it might mean. This may shift how the change can be implemented.

  • Scarcity affects value – Too often organizations behave like what is valued for its scarcity will still be true in the future, or that what constrains us from generating value a certain way will still be constraining going forward. Most of the IT systems currently in production were based on a scarcity model – the assumptions their design was based on may no longer be true. Data is not going to be scarce in the future, but the business context described by the data may still be. The attention of the employees most certainly will be scarce. If we need to consume more (of what’s abundant) to generate even more value from what's scarce – that is not a bad thing.

  • The rate of change and transformation is increasing – There are many different forces pushing businesses to change and adapt. These will be enabled by IT and essentially add fuel to the fire. We need to stop thinking of change as a periodic disruption of the status quo and instead see it as a river of change. It may go slower or faster, but it doesn’t stop. We need to be flexible and adapt and generate energy from it, not try to hold it back. We need to automate action as well as improve interaction.

  • The increasing digitization not a replacement for today’s processes and systems – Systems of record (e.g., ERP) are still going to be important. They record the transactions that keep a business running. We can surround them with better interfaces and automation, but don’t think that everything can be replaced with whole new concepts. They may be on new platforms… but we still need to keep records.

  • Social influence is beyond the control of any individual ecosystem – This was focused on newer methods to take advantage of social -- techniques like gamification or crowdsourcing that tap into the power of others need to be part of our toolkit.

I try to keep these posts short, but fortunately there is always an opportunity for another one.

 

A services framework for a one-stop experience

The core capabilities of IT organizations for the future definitely require the ability to manage 3rd parties effectively as well as the ability to deploy services seamlessly and securely. Tools and techniques are needed to enable this more dynamic environment.

 

For many organizations the Lines of Business have become frustrated with their ability to get what they need quickly and took matters into their own hands building up a layer of shadow IT (shadow IT can become a significant portion of the IT spend).

 

I try not to post too much on HP specific tools, except when it seems they are not getting the visibility they need – it was talked about back in December, but now it’s real.

 

HP Propel free catalog service is focused on helping deliver IT services. It was released today. Propel was announced on December 3rd 2013 and presented at HP Discover in Barcelona and in the web event on January 8 of this year.

 

HP Propel is the new services framework that delivers a modern portal, a service catalog, knowledge management, news feeds, and an open service exchange. It provides a unified experience to enterprise users, facilitating self-service support with aggregated catalog strategy and friendly request handling through integrated fulfilment engines. HP offers Propel as a free and as a premium service.

The key features of HP Propel free include:

  • Single portal as the one-stop shop for all IT services, from the latest IT news, shopping from a standard service catalog, or searching for the latest knowledge articles curated by HP.  Accessible from the web or mobile device, Propel is available in English, French and German.
  • Standard catalog with 100 of the most common IT services, fulfilled through email requests to IT’s existing back-end fulfillment engines.
  • Knowledge base with immediate access to 500 knowledge articles from HP IT, applicable to any user and IT organization.
  • IT News to keep end users informed and up-to-date. You can load your own RSS feeds to share your latest IT service information with web and mobile users.

 

Key benefits for customers using HP Propel free:

  • Quick startup of the Propel free service.
  • No upfront investment and operations.
  • Accelerated time-to-value in delivering your IT services, while continuing to use all existing service management products, for example HP or third party products.

Customers who wish to move to a more robust, premium service can design their own customized solution.

 

Take a look at the capabilities yourself, just register for Propel free.

propel-reinventing-service-v1_tcm_245_1542657.png

Boards and technology - is there a mismatch of expectation or understanding

board of directors.pngI recently came across this post by McKinsey titled: Elevating technology on the boardroom agenda. It reminded me of the articles written in the 1990s during the .com era. This surprised me because I thought we were beyond this kind of discussion. My view is that most business issues have a technical component – I thought that perspective was common knowledge.

 

A new style of business is possible enabled by technology. I assumed that most business leaders today have grown up with computers – after all the start of the .com era was 20 years ago. It appears that McKinsey doesn’t think we’ve progressed that far.

 

One of the statements made in the article was “boards should discuss forward-looking views of technology’s impact on their companies’ industries. Less than 30 percent reported that their boards had these discussions “. It could be the people who completed the survey wanted the board talking about forward looking bits and bytes for it to be classified as ‘technology’. I certainly hope the board would delegate that level of detail to others.

 

One of the items in the article illustrates that almost 50% characterize the board does not spend enough of their attention on IT topics. I would rather see them avoid IT details and ensure the company’s on-going strategy and success. There is only so much attention to go around.

 

One item in the survey I do agree with is that boards need to understand the future view of how technologies will affect their industry. Using that knowledge to their advantage is definitely part of the board’s role as representatives of the stock holders. Periodic exposure to technology futures and implications for their industry is a worthwhile investment of their time.

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About the Author(s)
  • Steve Simske is an HP Fellow and Director in the Printing and Content Delivery Lab in Hewlett-Packard Labs, and is the Director and Chief Technologist for the HP Labs Security Printing and Imaging program.
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