Have you hugged your IT person today?

General | December 13, 2011 | 3 min read

I have been blogging about the importance of IT as an enabler of new business opportunities for some time. I change it up once in a while, but the underlying theme remains the same: New technologies can create greater efficiencies and new business models that can drive revenue and profitability. It’s not just that there’s an opportunity to execute yesterday’s processes faster but that there may be opportunities to do things that were simply impossible to do yesterday.

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Most IT executives that I speak with agree with this, and believe that there are larger roles that they can play in their respective companies’ business strategy development. However, what is not clear to me — or to many of the IT professions with whom I speak — is whether today’s business leaders are aware of the strategic role IT can play in gaining new customers, growing revenue, opening untapped markets, and seizing other new opportunities. I recently read a survey – Gartner’s Executive Advisory: CEO and Senior Executive Survey – in which they cite an alarmingly shortsighted statistic: only 52% of senior executives surveyed viewed IT as having strategic business value.

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That implies that 48% of senior business executives view IT through the dusty lens of cost control or operational efficiency. With the amount of disruptive technology on the market today —  including mobile, virtualization, cloud, social/collaborative and so on — it should be a bit disturbing that our business leaders are so clueless to the opportunity that technology presents. In fact, nearly half of the respondents cited their next “valuable IT-enabled capability to be “ERP” or “CRM.”

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Really? That’s all you’ve got?!

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Business leaders who aspire to a future should be on notice and make sure that they are on the right side of the technology wave. The strategic use of technology can make or break businesses, and we have seen this happen time and again. Look no further than Amazon to see how many companies are now merely footnotes in the business eBook it is writing. On the positive side, e-commerce has created thousands of new businesses that are thriving online because of technology. Their entry into e-commerce reshaped the retail industry. When they offered web services in 2006, they created a whole new multi-billion dollar industry that today is the market for cloud computing infrastructure services. 

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I’m fairly certain that the prototypical CEO of the next decade will bring new skills and new insights to the table. Namely, the business leaders of the future will be tech savvy and have a big appetite for technology initiatives that can drive business innovation. This is not to say that they will have risen through the IT ranks, but they will likely have some on-the-job technology experience and/or some technical education. Increasingly, they’ll be “digital natives” and wonder why you’d even consider approaching a challenge without asking how to apply technology forstrategic advantage.

This same Gartner survey I mentioned previously suggested that attracting and retaining skilled workers/talent was among the top 3 business imperatives for today’s senior executives. I certainly hope that they plan to focus on finding and securing top IT talent. They need to partner with their CIO’s to come up with a better answer to what is their next valuable IT-enabled capability. This will not only be good for business, it may be good for their careers!

Raj


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