Strategic CIO // Digital Business
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8/21/2014
11:07 AM
Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy
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Will IT Miss The Digital Wave?

That doesn't matter. The important question is -- will you?

Eating At Interop: 8 NYC Dining Options
Eating At Interop: 8 NYC Dining Options
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

In many companies, IT isn't at the cool table.

The marketing team is busy creating a mobile app for customers. The product design team is cooking up an Internet of Things opportunity, or product managers are figuring out how a physical book, loan application, or concert could be recast as a digital experience. The IT organization often is left out of these customer-facing development efforts, or it's called in toward the end to patch data security holes or integrate a forgotten data element.

This trend of cutting IT teams out of digital efforts, combined with reports on how tech spending by execs outside of IT is on the rise, has commentators fretting about the future of the IT department.

But that's not your problem.

The right question for you is: Are you one of the people these groups would call in to move one of these projects forward? Is your team seen as one that has indispensable skills in getting creative, customer-facing technology projects up and running -- quickly and with high quality?

We just did a survey in which we asked 92 non-IT professionals to name the single biggest thing IT could do to improve its value. Tops (cited by 30%) is for IT to work more closely with business units. Just 8% want more innovative ideas. Business unit leaders want a technology partner, working side by side with them.

Helping the next generation of IT leaders navigate this new digital terrain is the reason we created our first InformationWeek IT Leadership Summit, coming Sept. 30 in New York City as part of Interop New York. (Access full agenda and registration here.) We see this one-day gathering as a place for CIOs to send their most promising leaders in order to build a deeper bench of digital talent.

[Think one Interop is the same as them all? See why that's not so: NYC Vs. Vegas: 10 Fun Interop Differences.]

No question, companies still need strong, central technology leadership in the coming digital/cloud era. But you and your teams will need the skills to guide a different kind of technology development -- one that's hyper-responsive to customer needs and changing tastes and isn't tolerant of anything that gets in the way.

Companies need technology leaders prepared to answer this question: If Airbnb can build a tech-based business valued at $10 billion while having just four to eight people in IT operations because it runs on Amazon cloud infrastructure, why can't we get our Web app more quickly?

Josh Oakhurst, chief strategy officer for digital development firm Skookum Digital Works, says he's seeing a new generation of tech-smart business leaders who just want to build something great -- to take on "aspirational technology projects." These leaders reject the "silly Silicon Valley fail-fast idea," he says, and instead they expect technology to work out of the gate. (Oakhurst will be one of our Summit speakers, in a workshop session titled "Getting Digital Done.")

InformationWeek's mission with our IT Leadership Summit is the same one you should have. It isn't to get all of IT to the cool table. It's to get you there. Please join us.

In its ninth year, Interop New York (Sept. 29 to Oct. 3) is the premier event for the Northeast IT market. Strongly represented vertical industries include financial services, government, and education. Join more than 5,000 attendees to learn about IT leadership, cloud, collaboration, infrastructure, mobility, risk management and security, and SDN, as well as explore 125 exhibitors' offerings. Register with Discount Code MPIWK to save $200 off Total Access & Conference Passes.

Chris Murphy is editor of InformationWeek and leader of its Strategic CIO community. He has been covering technology leadership and strategy issues for InformationWeek since 1999. Before that, he was editor of the Budapest Business Journal, a business newspaper in Hungary; ... View Full Bio
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BruceHarpham
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BruceHarpham,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/23/2014 | 9:53:56 AM
Empire building?
"This trend of cutting IT teams out of digital efforts, combined with reports on how tech spending by execs outside of IT is on the rise, has commentators fretting about the future of the IT department."

 

Part of this trend may simply be empire building. If a VP thinks "hey, I can build an IT group under my authority that will, by virtue of its creation, be aligned with my strategy, that's great!"
zerox203
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zerox203,
User Rank: Ninja
9/1/2014 | 3:01:46 PM
Re: Will IT Miss The Digital Wave?
I do agree with some of the sentiments people are expressing here about the much-talked-about supposed CIO/CMO battle. The evidence of this trend is undeniable at this point, but as for where exactly it will go and what it will mean for IT... I think that's still up in the air. For example, in one line of thinking, if all IT is transferred to contractors, then there's still the same amount of jobs for IT... just in different places. Now, that may not be much comfort to someone who's looking at losing their job (or, less dramatically, their sway at their company) today, but it does go to show the diversity of the factors at play here.

Nevertheless, these are good tips for any IT pro, Chris. We talk plenty here on InformationWeek about how important it is to have a business-first mentality as an IT pro and not a technology-first, and this is basically a slightly different take on that idea from different angle. Still, when pressed with a new situation, people are likely to fall back on old (read: bad) habits, and a lot of IT execs may be retreating to 'keeping the lights' precisely because they're feeling the pressure. You're right to point out that that's a mistake.
SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
8/31/2014 | 2:01:52 PM
Re: BT the new IT?
@ Chris, the co-existence of faxes alongside mobile channels has been in operation for quite long. Even with the new revolutionized technology, certain circumstances would just demand the use of convenience. It might be a matter of convenience or something closer to that but the essence cannot be underestimated.
SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
8/31/2014 | 1:42:44 PM
Future at stake?
With everything going digital and improvements being realized in other departments, the IT guys might find themselves between a rock and a hard place in the near future. Why would anyone wait for this anyway?? It leaves no option for the IT guys but to find more innovative channels of remaining relevant.
yalanand
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yalanand,
User Rank: Ninja
8/30/2014 | 3:05:41 PM
Thriving in the business
Chris Murphy has a way of seeing things which many people don't. Like he says, IT should strive to make businesses more resilient. Businesses depend on IT to transform obstacles and problems into opportunities and possibilities. The survivability of IT and businesses is mutual, if IT cannot help a business outlive competition, it dies with the business or the business will kick it out of the premises, whichever comes first. Truly effective IT will however thrive with the business.
SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
8/23/2014 | 2:30:58 PM
IT problems
Mostly IT is there to do the hardwork that requires little to no brain and that is why most of the IT work is outsourced to India, China, Japan etc. It is true that most managers would argue that IT still has some value in the marketing and developing department, but in reality, there is no such thing. Where there are dedicated skillful teams on these wings, why would managers want an average IT guy?
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
8/22/2014 | 12:53:38 PM
Re: Mobile dev
I certainly think ANY size company who deals with consumers needs to look at Touch/mobile as a channel. It's really not that difficult anymore, assuming you understand how to design UI on a small form factor. And you need that graphic designer expertise so it looks and feels slick and cool, very much like when Web 1.0 took off. It was an arms race to see who could have the slickest looking sites.

But there is a transition here. The guy who has been running/developing your back end systems all these years may want no part of this new paradigm in mobile/Touch. And you may not be able to afford/justify bringing someone else on board for this. I think outside IT will rule here for quite awhile in the mid size companies.
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
8/22/2014 | 12:47:21 PM
Re: BT the new IT?
Think about the transactions that take place between businesses, Chris. Then think about the kind of apps you see on mobile devices. Yeah, it's slick as heck you can go to Starbucks and pay for your stuff with your phone. Same thing at retail stores. Slick that small businesses can put device on phone/tablet to swipe credit cards instead of PoS systems. Slick that you can unlock hotel doors or book activities on a cruise.

But just exactly what processes between *most* businesses are you going to make more efficient by using a mobile device? I'm not a guy who believes ERP is going to run on mobile phone or Touch devices?  Could you do it? Sure! But is your A/P or A/R clerk really going to use Touch for that job? Very few functions, outside of dashboards/metrics, make sense for B2B manufacturing companies. If you have a warehouse and pick from stock to ship, mobile can be applied to that. But after that ideas get tougher to come by.

I mentioned faxes just to point out we haven't even successfully migrated everyone to EMAIL yet, some still not positioned to use that to receive electronic Order Acks, PO RFQs, shipping paperwork and invoices, etc. If they do that, they can get that on mobile phone. But I currently still have to run software allowing me to use fax service if customer requests it.
GAProgrammer
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GAProgrammer,
User Rank: Ninja
8/22/2014 | 10:10:36 AM
Re: Mobile dev
Thanks for the example, Chris. Maybe I just need to upgrade my employer to a bigger company....

ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
8/22/2014 | 10:06:05 AM
Re: Mobile dev
Here's an example, GAProgrammer. Vail Resorts is a ~$1 billion a year revenue, so a good-sized business but far from Fortune 500 ranks. It developed a customer-facing web & mobile app (EpicMix) a couple of years ago using contract talent. The app was a hit, it became clear this would be an important channel, so the company started hiring a few in-house developers to nurture and maintain that app. Now, this was an app very much created with a CIO-CMO partnership, so the resources are part of the IT team. But I think it's an example of how even mid-sized companies are looking to add new mobile/digital skills, and those people will land with whomever owns that channel.  
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