Research from McKinsey indicates that the pressure on companies to compete as digital businesses is throwing IT for a loop. Asked about their performance on a wide range of tasks, fewer than one-third of technology executives said they are very or completely effective at most of them.
But technology leaders give themselves higher marks when they are closely involved with shaping business strategy. Having more input into strategy would help to close the greatest gaps between IT and non-IT leaders when it comes to IT priorities, the report suggests. Although they rank many goals similarly, IT leaders consider cutting costs to be much more important than non-IT executives do, while non-IT executives give much higher priority to getting information to support planning and decision-making.
What obstacles have you had to clear in order to participate more actively in business strategy? What steps have you taken to get IT in position to do so?
Tesla has hired more employees who used to work at Apple than from carmakers, according to Bloomberg Business. And automakers are competing for Silicon Valley engineering talent. As companies develop IT-enabled products and services, what role do CIOs have recruiting and hiring technologists to work on product design and operations?
If your big data efforts are flagging, one problem may be that your processes are in the way, according to a recent article by McKinsey “In more established organizations, management-approval processes have not kept up with the advancements in data analytics,” writes David Court. “For example, it’s great to have real-time data and automated pricing engines, but if management processes are designed to set prices on a weekly basis, the organization won’t be able to realize the full impact of these new technologies.”
While that isn’t a surprising observation (what big IT initiative doesn’t upend existing workflows?) major technology shifts have a way of uncovering standard operating procedures that may not have been questioned for long time. What are some business process changes you discovered you need to make to move your big data initiatives out of the experiment stage? How are you managing these changes?
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has weighed in with recommendations for addressing the data privacy and security risks from the Internet of Things. Among them: limit the data you collect from consumer devices. Doing so might reduce your appeal as a target and reduce the damage consumers suffer if a breach occurs, officials suggest.
This is one of among several recommendations aimed at encouraging businesses to design their devices with data security in mind. Have you made security a priority as you explore IoT? What steps have you taken to ensure your CISO is involved?
A study by the MIT Center for Information Systems Research concludes that the quality of a company’s IT portfolio (and in turn, it’s financial performance) is influenced heavily by two factors: 1) how well senior executives understand IT, and 2) the extent to which they are engaged with IT in an ongoing conversation about the contribution IT can make to achieving business goals.
MIT calls the latter “demand shaping.” Researchers observe that more companies are engaging in demand shaping practices such as cost transparency, creating roadmaps for change, and using agile methodologies. What is one practice you’ve used to improve the quality of IT investment decisions? Why do you think it works?
Over the last three decades in this industry, I’ve seen many impressively disruptive waves of technology, but I have never witnessed as many waves hitting simultaneously as we are seeing today.
While we can and will pursue many of these, as CIOs in a hypercompetitive global environment, we have to catch the wave that makes the biggest impact on enabling the business and accelerating our revenue and business growth. In 2015, I predict the highest priority for CIOs is digitization.
As the digital economy pushes enterprises to analyze and solve problems faster, businesses are asking CIOs and IT professionals to help reduce complexities, improve synergies across organizations, and leverage existing information regardless of where it resides. For instance, my team is extending our data lake architecture capabilities to enable multiple organizations to make data-driven decisions and accelerate the value for the business like never before. To do this, CIOs and IT professionals must:
- Start at “home” by automating and digitizing critical IT processes and services. This is essential for IT-as-a-Service to be successful.
- Partner even closer with our businesses units to truly understand their requirements and how we can help them.
- Take advantage of the analytical and data science knowledge and activities that have been surfacing throughout the company, so we leverage existing best practices and prioritize projects rather than reinvent the wheel.
- Explore how we can build capabilities and flexibility into our data lake solution to allow users to incorporate more publicly available data into their analyses.
- Capture and share all the incredible data science knowledge we have in the company to train and help our users to go beyond analysis paralysis and get the most out of the wealth of data.
- Build data-driven apps that simplify the experience for our users and allow them to have the information they need at their fingertips.
While we still love technology, CIOs are now strategists and business enablers. In 2015 and beyond, we must strive to help our companies differentiate their products and services; reduce development and sales cycles; and optimize business processes and performance. Digitization (and big data analytics) is essential.
Entrepreneur and corporate director Betsy Atkins says cybersecurity risks have made information security oversight an important area of corporate governance, and therefore boards need cybersecurtiy committees to oversee company security policies and practices. Maybe you should even have some cybersecurity experts among your directors.
Does your board have a committee focused on cybersecuity, or are you creating one? What are some reasons to do it, or not? If you have one, what advice do you have for companies that want to get started?
Maybe the real evidence that new technologies have finally taken hold is when the old ones fall away. It looks as if traditional, landline voicemail is finally on its way out. Coca-Cola has eliminated voicemail at its headquarters–one of the biggest companies, according to Bloomberg, to do so.
Company leaders say this will make employees more productive. I’m guessing almost no one used it anyway. Coca-Cola workers who wanted to keep their voicemail had to demonstrate a “critical business need” (only 6 percent did). Which technologies or platforms are you planning to kill in the next year?
Innovative leaders have excellent strategic vision, a strong customer focus and won’t throw their colleagues under the bus when something goes wrong. These are the most important traits uncovered in a study of 33 leaders at a telecommunications company by consultants at Zenger/Folkman. In an article for HBR.org, Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman say they think their conclusions apply across industries and cross-culturally.
Though an ability to inspire the team makes their top 10, it’s last on the list. I suspect that’s because you need to demonstrate the other nine in order to inspire anyone. Three traits relate to communication: being receptive to ideas that come from the bottom up, persuasiveness, and honesty. The remaining three relate to setting goals and executing them.
The one that strikes me as hardest to practice ranks fourth: you’re not there to make your boss happy. Loyalty to the organization and customers should come first. Do you agree? How do you convey that idea to your team?
A Forbes contributor crunched some numbers on cloud computing jobs, using data from Wanted Analytics, and identified 15 companies with the largest number of openings. Five are major IT software and services firms (with IBM, Oracle and Amazon at the top) and four (including the Army National Guard) are focused on national security. The remainder include health insurers, financial services firms and consultancies.
The numbers suggest intense competition in these industries. I’m wondering, though, whether that’s spilling over into other sectors. How important is industry-specific expertise? Does a need for industry knowledge narrow your options even further?