Strategic CIO // Executive Insights & Innovation
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3/18/2014
12:20 PM
Onyeka Nchege
Onyeka Nchege
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Mobile Strategy: How & Why To Go Faster

Your colleagues want an information Autobahn, so buckle up and embrace the pace.

The term "information superhighway" always reminds me of how I felt during a business trip I once took to Germany. This is the scene. I get into a Mercedes Benz S550 taxi and tell the driver to get me to my meeting on time and by any means necessary.

Within seconds, we're speeding down the Autobahn so fast that I steal a glance at the speedometer. Going 160 miles per hour had me in such shock that I wanted to tell the driver to slow down, but I couldn't form the words to tell him so. I remember mouthing the words and having no sound around them to make them audible. Out the window, I see a blur of cars we're passing and, even more shocking, some speeding around us. When we get to the destination I have to remind myself that I was the one who gave those instructions to the cab driver.

The thrill and fear of that Autobahn ride parallels how IT leaders think about delivering digital information in this new mobile-centric world: We want to help our colleagues reach the end result as quickly as possible, but we fear the process and potential damage.

I drew this comparison during a recent discussion with a CIO friend from a similar brick-and-mortar, consumer packaged goods company, as we discussed the consumerization of IT and the insatiable appetite of employees for the newest, shiniest "toys" as they hit the market. His teammates want, and sometimes demand, constant change relative to mobile devices and applications. He admitted he also wants all the latest and greatest gadgets and solutions but is afraid of the risks that this New-Now mindset could create for the organization.

But IT leaders must accept this reality: No matter what we're saying about adopting mobile technology, nothing is coming out bold enough for our business partners. So if you find yourself saying, "It's too much already," or "We should slow this process down," please relax and slip into the fast lane for a few minutes, because this thrill ride is worth staying on to reap the benefits for your organization.

[Want more from Onyeka Nchege on mobile strategy? He'll be discussing this topic at the InformationWeek Conference. Register to attend.]

Here are five things I would ask that you consider when thinking about going full-speed on the mobile information superhighway: Ownership, Feedback, Adaptability, Execution, and Relationships.

Ownership: First, ask yourself if you really need to regulate the speed on the information superhighway, or, like on the Autobahn, should you buckle up and enjoy the ride? I suggest we need to embrace how fast the technology is changing and the myriad of choices within the industry, and to do this we need to own the process of bringing new technology into the company.

If we as IT leaders are concerned about how fast things are happening within the organization, it's likely because we don't have ownership of the process. Where there is ownership, there is strategy around all this technology infusion in the organization. With strategy comes accountability, and when there is accountability there can be return on investment. Spend your energy figuring out how to leverage what you have in your technology landscape, optimizing it, and making it work for you within your organization. Spend less time trying to influence the speed limits on the superhighway, and more on direction. While owning the process, you'll most likely find that your business partners have a legitimate business need for the constant retooling and revamping of technologies they want.

Feedback: Feedback is the catalyst for change. You have to put mechanisms in place to understand and ensure that you are in a constant state of getting feedback from your organization to better understand what is needed to support your business partners.

Adaptability: If you are developing or acquiring scalable applications that can reside on multiple platforms, then the device becomes irrelevant. IT needs to implement device-agnostic applications that it can maintain in a centralized fashion. This approach lets IT remain adaptable as the New-Now mindset builds in your organization.

Execution: Having scalable applications that are device-agnostic allows for speedier delivery to more users. Speedier delivery to more users provides a quicker return on investment for your organization and your business partners.

Relationships: IT pros should spend less time worrying about the new software and devices employees are bringing into their environments, and more time learning their business partners' names and faces. Without those personal relationships, the software and devices they're using are the least of your concerns. Getting to know your business partners, and ensuring they know you, lets them trust you to address and manage their technology needs. Spending time on relationship building will help you as you educate your user base on what is available to them and what is emerging in the marketplace. You will find that this practice will aid you in influencing the New-Now mindset.

Take action
Take a look back on these five factors in reverse order. Building trusted Relationships will ensure that you understand the true business needs of your colleagues. Focusing on Execution and Adaptability will give you the tools to say "yes" when you all agree on the business need for new mobile devices and software, and it will give you the confidence to accept Feedback, knowing that you have the capability to respond. All those factors make it possible for IT to take Ownership -- as part of a partnership, rather than a power struggle.

See my blog: Leadership on the GO... It's O.N.

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Onyeka Nchege is the Chief Information Officer for Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated (CCBCC), the largest independent Coca-Cola bottler in the United States. He has strategic and operational responsibility for developing the information technology strategy and management of ... View Full Bio

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jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
3/22/2014 | 8:32:22 PM
Re: Mobile Strategy for CIOs
That is a great philosophy, Stratustician. IT should be an enabler of the business, not a roadblock to progress.
Stratustician
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Stratustician,
User Rank: Ninja
3/22/2014 | 11:50:35 AM
Re: Mobile Strategy for CIOs
I also agree about focusing on the business relationships.  I always feel like there is a hard divide between IT and the rest of the organization, with the majority of the company feeling like IT is there to put limits and restrictions on what they can do and give them less-than-ideal tools.  If there was better cooperation and collaboration between teams, there would be not just more positive relationships between the departments, but key stakeholders would be able to get involved in IT projects to ensure they meet the needs of what the users are trying to accomplish.  Users get better tools, IT gets less headaches.  Win-win!
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
3/20/2014 | 9:18:36 AM
Re: Mobile Strategy for CIOs
Great point about meeting people where they are. Our customers and employees are often leaps and bounds ahead of the organization in emerging technology. We face risks of being left behind if we aren't moving faster than we tend to.
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
3/19/2014 | 6:55:57 PM
Re: Mobile Strategy for CIOs
This is the line that jumped out for me: "No matter what we're saying about adopting mobile technology, nothing is coming out bold enough for our business partners." This isn't like the dot-com days, when we're all learning about this Internet tech together. People are there when it comes to mobile -- they live on their mobile devices, and it's just a matter of whether our brands are there to meet them, or our company tools are there to tap into that energy and interest. 
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
3/19/2014 | 11:36:54 AM
Mobile Strategy for CIOs
Onyeka and I discussed BYOD recently and he used another driving analogy I think many of you will appreciate. He says he doesn't put up stop signs for people on the business side -- he puts up caution signs. I think that's a useful analogy when discussing mobile strategy.
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