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

Facilitating a session on the Next Generation CIO

CIO.pngThis past week, I facilitated a session at a CIO conference in LA. The focus of the session I facilitate was The Next Generation CIO. Before we got started I had a brief introduction about the changes taking place from my view as a chief technologist perspective.  Here is a summary of my kick-off comments:

 

It seems today that you can’t pick up an IT magazine or listen to a conference keynote without someone lamenting the state of the relationship between the CIO and the business or IT’s capabilities to generate new value for corporations.

Let’s face it things have changed in recent years. For the past few decades we've been successful deploying and maintaining the systems of record that have been the backbone of decision-making for organizations. We’ve built up layer upon layer of successful projects to the point where we’re calcified by our own success. Unfortunately this means that it is common to hear people talk about having 80% of their budget consumed before the year even starts (just keeping the lights on) with little to nothing left over to add new business value. It may be as important what we stop doing as what we can start.

 

Having stated that we’ve had all this success, it is good to recognize that almost all the solutions in production today were built with a scarcity assumption. There was never enough data, storage, network or computing capacity.

In many cases, those limitations have been overcome and we live in a world of abundant IT capabilities. We now can take that abundance of data and computing capacity and use analytic techniques to perform complex tasks like context recognition and sentiment analysis – tasks that just a few years ago were the domain of human knowledge workers. We can now begin to recognize ‘normal’ situations and automate them, freeing up people to focus on the anomalies and turn them into opportunities.

 

 

Infrastructure as a Service is an example of a business process we're all familiar with. At its core it is the business process of instantiation and monitoring of virtual machines. Today, it has been automated to a large extent. What we can do today is just the tip of the iceberg of change headed our way as even greater IT capabilities allow us to take these techniques and apply them throughout the business. Instead of automating VM instantiation, we should be able to automate hiring personnel or even most of the middle management role in some organizations.

 

This abundance perspective can fundamentally shift how value is generated and the role of IT within organizations. If we don’t understand and capitalize on these technology shifts to address the business shifts underway, others will come in and eat our lunch.

 

With this as a starting point, we had a very active discussion covering a wide range of topics some of which were:

  •          Can is really be called Shadow IT if the CIO helps the business by applying their expertise to help steer, rather than running alongside and trying to slow it down?
  •          What can we do to help our people transition from traditional IT to a newer more flexible and business centric approach? Unfortunately, not all of them will be able to make the transition.
  •          What do CIOs need to do to sharpen the sword, for themselves and their people? One of the key points of this discussion was spending time with the business. Live it.
  •          Don’t strive for perfection – be flexible and enable the business to adjust as needed.

I had to draw the session to a close when time ran out but afterward there were a number of clusters that were still talking – and that discussion was likely more important than the discussion of the bigger group.

Scarcity, abundance and innovation

 

empty.pngRecently, someone pointed out a video from McKinsey that is talking about how Technological advances can not only improve resource productivity dramatically but also spark the next industrial revolution. I had to laugh a bit since this concept is something that we’ve talked about since the very first blog post (almost 10 years ago) and for our strategy work years before. The abundance of IT can drive innovation in almost any industry.

 

Understanding the interaction between scarcity and abundance is an important part of any enterprise strategy effort. If an innovation can’t be understood from its effects, it probably can’t be used for that particular organization. Just being new, interesting or exciting isn’t enough. Adoption can’t be assumed but needs to be built in the mind of those who should adopt (and adapt).

 

In some situations like the service space that has been traditionally built on access to people and process, the ability to remove people through automation can shake the foundation of how an organization approaches the market. The same could be said about the concept of middle management. Once you shift your view to the default perspective of “Prove that we need them” rather than “We’ve always done it that way”, real chance can happen.

 

I am on my way home from a couple of weeks on the road. Hopefully, I’ll have some time to sit back and think about some of the things that I’ve seen recently and follow my own advice.

 

Contemplating trend intersections – HP’s global technical conference

Recently, a friend from ISSIP sent me an article from Forbes asking Can LED Advances Help Vertical Farms Take Root? I found it interesting because I grew up on a farm, but also because it is an example of the intersection of technical and business trends.

 

The abundance of capabilities in one space (LEDs) can address a scarcity in another space (arable land). An important part of strategic thinking going forward is looking for these relationships as they are today and for trends that will cause them to shift, as well as the organizational change management implications.

 

This week, I am participating in HP’s internal Global Technical Conference. I’ll be looking at the innovations from this scarcity and abundance perspective as well as  meta-drivers that impact innovation value generation.

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.

 

Strategy and change

strategic questions.pngSince the first of the year I’ve been giving a presentation on embracing technical trends for organizations – what strategists need to think about. At the end of the material, I include the take away points:

  • Many of the factors that enable change are predictable - plan to take advantage of predictable change

  • Scarcity affects value – Every organization can determine how what is abundant can maximize the value of what is scarce
  • The rate of change and transformation is increasing. We need to prepare our organizations to assimilate and take advantage of change - there is no end state, we play through anticipated changes
  • The increasing digitization of society, commerce, personal and professional lives is not a replacement for today’s processes and systems, but adds capabilities – the future is additive

  • Social influence is beyond the control of any individual ecosystem but will impact all organizations - make it work for you

What other areas do strategists need to comprehend or embrace?

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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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