Sunday, November 30, 2014

Paradox: It Takes More Than Technology To Lead With Technology

Since the days the first computers were rolled into enterprises, there has always been a paradox at work. That is, the organizations that move ahead in a meaningful way with technology tend to be those that are already ahead of the pack in many other areas as well — exhibiting extraordinary management vision, employee growth opportunities, and cultures of innovation, to name a few. On the other hand, the laggards who could really use an injection of technology tend to be the ones behind in implementations. This paradox became even more apparent over the last decade, with the rise of business-technology fusion initiatives such as service-oriented architecture and analytics-driven decision making. Those organizations that moved well ahead of the pack in these ventures were likely to be the ones who could succeed quite nicely without them as well. Whereas the more calcified, hidebound and uninspired organizations with rigid management approaches that could have benefited from service orientation and analytics tended not to be the ones engaged in such efforts in any meaningful way.
For the forward-looking organizations, however, there was always an inherent challenge. With so many positive things going on both technological and non-technological — including employee empowerment, innovation, promoting corporate social responsibility — it’s often difficult to separate out a single reason the reason for success. It’s like listening to a beautiful orchestra piece and trying to decide what is making the music so beautiful — be it the strings, the woodwinds, the percussion, or the conductor. It’s any of the above, and all of the above.
As we progress toward more digital-driven organizations, we continue to see such paradoxes. Think about the top examples of digital enterprises — the Googles, the Apples, the GEs — and you see technology being but one piece of their success. They have cultures that promote individual initiative and  innovation in a big way, and their leadership stands behind compelling, powerful visions of a better world.
For many organizations, moving to digital is an awkward process. Some drop expensive technology into their organizations, expecting overnight results. For others, digital is occurring on a piecemeal basis, with no particular rhyme or reason. That’s why we see that despite massive investments and concentrations of technology in many of today’s organizations, there is still precious little movement to wrap it around business strategy — or wrap business strategy around it.
A recent survey released by
 IBM’s Institute for Business Value bears this out. Seventy percent of the 750 business and technology executives surveyed don’t argue that technology is the key these days to competitive advantage or optimizing revenue and profit. However, only 22 percent have a well-defined enterprise IT infrastructure strategy that will directly deliver business value.
The survey report, written by Nate Dyer, Pamela Hurwitch, Eric Lesser and Jacqueline Woods, all with IBM, concludes that a lot more work is needed.  Only 30 percent of IT executives believe they are successful at collaborating with the business to provide IT infrastructure solutions to support business needs, and only 34 percent believe their organizations look to IT to provide expertise in selecting technology services, such as cloud computing.
To move in the right direction, the report’s authors recommend that technology leaders reposition IT as both trusted advisors and valued service providers. at the same time, business leaders will increasingly be getting involved in technology decisions. More than 40 percent of respondents said that business leaders will be involved in making decisions about cloud computing and IT architecture over the next three years. One way to start the conversation about IT’s evolving role is to start with the question:  “How easy it is it to do business with the IT organization?”

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