What are strategic IT issues that companies are having challenge on?

7/10/2013 @ 12:00PM

Business-technology teams today face a daunting set of inside/outside challenges: just as CEOs are demanding more business value from IT, customers are demanding more-intelligent engagements and flexible experiences from the businesses they buy from. In that context, CIOs need to find a way to not just manage both simultaneously, but to conceive and execute bold new approaches for both simultaneously. As a result, strategic CIOs are radically reworking everything from enterprise architecture to social-media policies and from cloud-computing deployments to customer-experience projects in an effort to simplify IT and thereby fund innovation, growth, and latency-free processes.

In my debut column in this space 10 months ago, I offered a list of The Top 10 Strategic CIO Issues For 2013 that touched on the following business-technology challenges and opportunities that are still facing businesses today:

1) Transforming IT spending habits by leveraging cloud computing to unlock and liberate huge chunks of IT budgets.

2) Embracing social business in a wide range of ways to enhance internal collaboration and external engagements.

3) Exploiting Big Data and analytics to unlock new growth opportunities.

4) Creating customer-centric systems and culture across the organization.

5) Future-proofing your IT architecture to meet the profoundly more-demanding requirements of businesses in a world increasingly driven by mobile, social, Big Data, and the Internet of Things.

6) Cloud computing as business-transformation agent: rapidly shifting the cloud discussion from one that’s centered on technology to one focused on strategic business outcomes.

7) Big Data goes strategic: Big Insights, Big Opportunities, and Big Growth become the new themes.

8) Move at the speed of your customers: finding elegant and scalable ways to marry systems of record (ERP) with systems of engagement (Social).

9) CIO as Chief Acceleration Officer: CIOs need to help CEOs accelerate everything from product development to analytics to financial closings to responding to customer inquiries. Latency is the enemy!

10) More Innovation, Less Integration: old IT approaches simply can’t scale with today’s demands, so CIOs must find powerful new approaches to meet the new customer-driven requirements of today and tomorrow.

Now, I realize that’s quite a wide-ranging list and that the completion of even half of those suggestions would be monumental achievement. The problem, though, is that the outside world is growing increasingly demanding, increasingly mobile, increasingly intelligent, and increasingly impatient. And because the future is arriving more quickly than ever before, and therefore the only viable alternative for CIOs is to ensure that their companies can move as fast as this crazy world we live in today! That’s why I think the list we published 10 months ago of The Top 10 Strategic CIO Issues For 2013 still holds up very well today at the mid-point of the year. And while I don’t mean to suggest that this list will be a perfect fit for every company, I do believe that based on conversations about this list with lots of customers, it provides a thought-provoking way for CIOs to engage with their CEOs and other business leaders on today’s most-pressing business challenges.

I hope these 10 discussion points, and the overall analysis, provide some fresh thinking for you and your company, and I welcome your feedback via Twitter to @bobevansIT.  (The following content was originally published as a standalone column on Forbes.com in September 2012.) Perhaps no C-level position has undergone as many changes in expectations, approaches, and philosophies during the past few decades as that of the Chief Information Officer. And the turbulent forces shaping businesses in today’s always-on global marketplace promise to accelerate that ongoing evolution. In that context, I’ve put together a list of what I believe will be the top priorities for strategic CIOs in the coming year. As you’ll see, each of these 10 is rooted in change, and calls for the CIO to be a leader instead of a follower; a disrupter instead of a go-alonger; and a business-driven executive instead of a tech-focused manager.

Several themes reverberate throughout: analytics, breaking down silos, social, the cloud, and particularly customers, opportunities, growth, and innovation. I hope these prove helpful, and please share your feedback in the comments section below or on Twitter at @bobevansIT.

1) Simplify IT and Transform Your Spending: Kick the 80/20 Budget Habit. While surely not as sexy as Social and Business Analytics and Cloud, this bold decision to take an entirely new approach to IT infrastructure is the one and only way CIOs can unlock the funding necessary to pursue those snazzier and unquestionably vital new initiatives. Far too many companies today find that they need to devote 70% or even 80% of their IT budget just to run and maintain what they’ve already got, leaving as little as 20% for innovation. And if you wonder sometimes why you’ve got precious little IT budget available to fund growth-oriented innovation, the answer becomes pretty clear by looking at the list of usual suspects that have brought us to this point: server sprawl, massively underutilized storage resources, unproductive data centers, labor-intensive integration requirements, and a near-endless list of “strategic” vendors. The IT policies of the past that resulted in the 80/20 trap are simply no longer able to meet the needs of today’s intensely demanding and always-on business world, and are indeed becoming liabilities not just because they’re inadequate but also because they suck up vast percentages of the IT budget and make it almost impossible for CIOs to fund essential new efforts in analytics or cloud or mobile or social. CIOs need to determine which vendors are only exacerbating this problem, and which ones offer modern alternatives that are cheaper, faster, and smarter. My POV: CEOs should tie most or all of the variable compensation for their CIOs to changing that deadly 80/20 budget ratio by 5 percentage points per year. The CIOs willing to tackle this huge issue will not only earn some nice bonus dollars but will unlock huge value for their companies as well as for their own careers. 

2) Lead the Social Revolution: Drive the Social-Enabled Enterprise. When social media began to invade the corporate world some years back, the traditional border-collie behavior of many CIOs triggered immediate and unconditional opposition to social tools on the grounds of security challenges, lack of familiarity, and unproven value. As social’s ability to forge new and more-immediate relationships with customers became more clear, some CIOs grudgingly agreed to let down the drawbridge (but they drew the line at removing the alligators from the moat!). Today’s business-technology leaders must go well beyond that passive acceptance and become passionate and unconditional zealots for the social-driven revolution and its ability to help their companies grow by providing real-time customer insights, engagements, and processes. Beyond customers, the social revolution is also becoming indispensable internally for motivating existing employees and recruiting great new talent, and in forging deeper and more-valuable relationships with partners.

My POV: CIOs who fight this trend will be pushed aside by CMOs and LOB heads who understand social’s potential and know they can’t compete unless that potential is harnessed by the company for competitive advantage. And what does “pushed aside” mean? At best, temporary embarrassment, and at worst, demotion or even unemployment.

Source: http://www.forbes.com

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