“Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”
Thomas Paine, 1737-1809
Two centuries ago, when state-of-the-art IT was the 3,000-year-old abacus and the fastest form of communications was the smoke signal, Thomas Paine’s words might have made sense, but today, especially for CIOs and IT professionals, Do. Help. Or Get Out of the Way. is increasingly the formula for success, or at the very least, survival.
Yes, IT has to make sure the tools work, but if they’re not the right tools, doing the right work, then just keeping the lights on will be an exercise in futility. And in business, the ultimate result of futility is a failure.
Recently, Gartner published what I thought were surprising numbers about IT budgets, reporting that growth would come in at a paltry 2.1% to $3.7 trillion. That’s not very much when you consider everything going on in the 24×7 world, from explosive growth in mobility, Big Data and analysis, mobility, social computing, and security.
A new report from IDC paints a slightly brighter picture, with worldwide IT spending forecast to increase by 4.5% in 2014. In addition to smartphones, the strongest growth will come from software, including rapidly expanding markets such as data analytics, data management, and collaborative applications including enterprise social networks. IDC stated that Big Data, Social, Mobile and Cloud will continue to drive virtually all of the growth in IT spending.
“At the beginning of 2014, we asserted that businesses would choose to fix the roof while the sun was shining,” said Stephen Minton, Vice President in IDC’s Global Technology & Industry Research Organization (GTIRO). “Unfortunately, the weather was literally much colder than expected during the first quarter. The good news is that the U.S. economic outlook has already brightened and this will drive a period of moderate but long-awaited investment in mission-critical infrastructure over the next year. However, accelerating adoption of cloud services will continue to impact sales of traditional on-premise equipment, packaged software, and IT services. This capital spending cycle will be mild by historical standards.”
So IT will have a little more money to work with than previously predicted, but if CIOs don’t start pushing for innovation that delivers business value, throwing money at the existing mess will just lead to a bigger mess. In fact, the term information technology is no longer appropriate in a business context, according to a recent article. “The “IT” label is part of the glass ceiling that has limited business technologists for decades,” wrote Robert Plant, an associate professor of computer information systems at the University of Miami School of Business Administration. “In too many companies, IT leaders, relegated to their cost centers, are subordinate to other C-level executives.”
With CIOs split into two groups — those driving value and those trapped inside the data center — the winners will be those who ensure what Gartner calls “the effective and efficient use of information technology in enabling the organization to reach its goals. They’ll no longer be at the periphery, but will be fully integrated into the core strategic work of the firm, the business itself.”
This new focus on business is driving a new title of chief business technology officer, whose focus is how technology is used to win, serve, and retain customers. So get ready to say goodbye to IT and hello to BT — business technology.
The 4 Keys To Business Technology
According to Phil Weinzimer, author of The Strategic CIO: Changing the Dynamics of the Business Enterprise, strategic CIOs traverse a common four-phase process to transform their IT organizations into a strategic asset that enables IT and business unit personnel to collaborate in new and innovative ways to achieve significant business outcomes.
1) Deliver Commodity and Business Services Exceptionally Well.
2) Understand the Business, Focus on User Experiences, and Improve Business Skills of IT Personnel.
3) Implement Initiatives to Improve Margin (Sales/Cost)
4) Leverage Technologies to Innovate Value.
Image credit: Buck (flickr) / CC-BY