IT personnel to combine innovation with traditional wisdom leading Business Transformations
Traditional IT departments used to be “service providers” with the business spelling out their requirements and IT personnel developing and maintaining applications accordingly. Process driven (business users detailing the processes that gets translated to requirements) and Transaction-orientation (handling order, account, payments) were the driving forces. The responsibility of CIO mainly is in ensuring building/buying applications that automated the business processes and ensuring SLAs as demanded by the users.
IT personnel expertise was typically technical – related to Platform (Mainframe, OS/2, Windows, Mac, Unix, Linux) and Programming languages (Assembler, COBOL, C, C++, Visual Basic, .Net, Java). IT skills had to do with debugging, trouble-shooting, optimizing etc. In essence, IT department was playing the role of “Make / Buy to Order” with business being responsible for spelling out their requirements – functional and non-functional – in detail.
IT can longer limit itself to such a secondary role. While process driven, transaction-oriented applications are still required, they are getting commoditized, the real value is in “IT leading Business Transformations – enabling business to exploit the technological advances”.
We are currently seeing the following trends that seem to mean demise of IT departments:
- scripting languages taking over traditional languages (enabling business users to create their own applications quickly),
- cloud computing with its “anything-as-a-service” (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS etc.) and “pay-as-you-use” paradigm (enabling Small and medium businesses (SMBs) to even dispense with in-house IT infrastructure as well as personnel).
- Open source has become mainstream and almost on par with the proprietary software in terms of their capabilities
- Advances in mobile technology, social networking and a large number of applications available in the consumer space is making most individuals adept in using technology and also exploiting some of these in getting their work done better (IT personnel can no longer bowl the users with technology jargons!).
But, in reality we are reaching a stage where “IT” is shifting to a primary or at least peer role with business. IT personnel should no longer remain in the background but taking an active role in ensuring that their organizations make the best use of technology.
As Forrester says “Digital technology is disrupting everything-the way we communicate with each other; the way we access, store, and share information; the way we purchase and interact with the products and services we use every day; the way in which we actually pay for those products and services. Whether you like it or not, digital disruption is happening everywhere, it’s happening fast, and it’s accelerating.”
And this is what is making Information Technology the leading factor today, and advances in the fields of “Analytics”, “Natural Language processing”, “Semantic Web”, “Mobile applications”, “Hand-held devices” etc. is providing businesses with opportunities for transformations like never before.
IT department have to lead Business transformation (for that matter, some organizations have created a separate Business transformation department) in almost all the areas – Marketing, pre-sales, sales, customer service, finance.
Today Customers demand that business come to them at the right time to the right place with the “right product / service / solution” – sooner than later nothing short of personalized service would be acceptable.
Business Users demand intuitive, user-friendly applications to which they are getting used to in the consumer space.
Powerful analytics – customer analytics, web analytics, predictive analytics, business analytics (yes, Analytics is fast pushing transactions to the background that even queries like “Are transactions necessary” being raised) is providing business with greater visibility (breadth and depth) to their operations, spend and their impact. Now organizations can where every penny of their money is being spent and what it is resulting in – thereby controlling their marketing, cross-selling and customer service to the right set of customers who do bring the profits. Organizations can now widen their customer base (the world is indeed the market) and provide personalized service - still be “lean and mean”.
But using technology advances, for the sake of technology is a major risk and this would mean massive implications in terms of money. The real challenges lies in making the right use of technology appropriate to the organization – generating revenue, improving customer satisfaction, increasing employee loyalty and yes – maximizing profit. That is why, now the much harped about “Domain / Business knowledge” is becoming a necessity for IT personnel. Another key advantage the IT professional has – instead of getting carried over by the possibilities of using the cutting-edge technology they would also consider the implications of implementing it in large scale.
IT people have to become versatile, technology-savvy, business-aware as well as innovative, risk-taking and become the initiators of transformation efforts across organization. CIOs do have a challenge in making this paradigm shift in their organization and sustaining it.