The year is underway and the optimism on using technology for business has a new decade mentality and reality to it. Everyone seems to have settled down with New Year’s predictions that are either crazy or ridiculous as I have already written as they actually might ruin your business. I believe that now is the best time to invest into the major business areas of organizations where technology can address issues and opportunity to optimize and manage more effectively than current efforts as they are more than a priority but a core belief. Much was learned in the last decade across a range of technology that plays a critical role within business processes but also the management of people and processes for advancing the utilization of assets in the most efficient manner. I saw this transformation in the first decade as our firm benchmarked over 10,000 organizations use of information and technology for their people and processes. Much was learned in what it takes to balance improvement across people, processes, information and technology competencies to mature an organization overall. But a lot of the technology discussion in the industry and within IT are just for technology sakes and not focused for truly better, faster and smarter business. This lack of concerted effort to what I identify as business and information technology can accelerate business to reach positive outcomes is exactly what is needed. Building on top of 2009 where the business technology priorities provided a foundation for those organizations who were preparing for decade of technology innovation and competency.
This required level of innovation requires designated focus to the core of every organization across finance, customer, operations including supply chain, sales and marketing, and IT where the use of technology is required to be efficient and effective. The span of technology must focus on applications that are designed for the specific but common business needs to the unique elements of managing assets, portfolio, profitability, and even spend. Similarly there are tools that are designed for roles across the organization as well within IT to use information effectively in business. The CIO and IT must establish more efficient methods to meet the hungrier needs of business for technology or they will continue to divert their cooperation using capital and operational expense budgets at their discretion. The need for business specific applications are expanding in scope and the resulting adoption and evaluation from performance management to sustainability management into the specific needs of the GRC acronym including governance, risk and compliance across finance, operations and IT organizational areas are growing. And while a decade of performance management applications for managing to the corporate and finance objectives have and will continue to make progress I have seen similar specialization along business areas of sales and supply chain. At the same I have seen similar advancements in the contact center and customer management areas as they are growing within IT themselves seeing the importance of managing to specific goals and objectives in a more transparent and direct manner. This has established in innovative organizations more dynamic performance management processes that require dedicated applications to govern and encourage the best outcomes.
Similarly the broader organizational management of the workforce has been climbing in importance as organizations invest into use of talent management applications to achieve optimal workforce performance. This is not one application but a series of applications that work together for the recruitment and on-boarding to effective job positions through compensation, learning, compensation, incentives, performance review and succession. While human resources have helped administrate and grow these efforts they now require the leadership of finance and operations executives to fund faster growth and deployment throughout the business. I believe that once organizations realize the movement of performance management the convergence of initiatives will take form to truly deliver on synchronized business-wide performance management.
The pace of business and movement of our workforces also require new examination to the traditional use of technology like desktops and notebooks to the lighter and more nimble mobile technology. The business needs in this area have been heavily progressively towards mobile technology to simplify work tasks in dramatically new ways like Apple iPhone where applications and interactions are much simpler. Even the recently announced Apple iPad and smaller tablet computers for interactions are part of a new wave of technology for consumers but business users bring technology into the enterprise. These business workers look to find how technology can make them operate faster and smarter with the hope of balancing their work and personal lives much better than year’s past. If IT does not become more adaptive to the lower cost and use of these technologies in business they will find more headaches as they get blamed for their lack of support and integration into the enterprise.
But at the core of every organization is the information required to drive business transactions and for making decisions across business. It should be no surprise that many CIO’s have further prioritized the focus on managing and making information assets more available as they hear and see the priority instead of just investing into the latest data center or networking technology. Now the word information has a much broader context as the use of document and text to the data that represents metrics from analytics is all part of what is need to be information intelligent in organizations. This requires smarter information management competencies and processes to support a range of content and data management needs. And yes data warehousing will play a role as will the use of data integration and data quality across the enterprise with more regimented efforts in master data management (MDM) to support data governance processes. But this is not sufficient as specific business processes require dedicated technology that can support the data and information needs across areas like customer, product and finance areas that intertwine across almost every organization. At the same time many organizations are looking for methods to make their data cheaper and faster for business due to the burgeoning cost and size of broader database implementations. New generations of analytic databases and associated appliances that integrate software and hardware have simplified many aspects of IT along with the database specialization that is growing again like the last movement in the mid 1990’s. I would expect this to continue as many continue to worry about generalized technology for their specific needs, no matter how good or bad it is.
But to leverage information effectively is making sure it is available to those that need it which is not as easy as it seems. The driving force of information availability is now a key use of technology for something called I call Information Applications that address the larger spectrum of needs. The broader context of information from data to content to text is and should be more easily searched and navigated from the Internet and from mobile technologies just as much from web browser based methods. The utilization of a range of information from content, data, events, text and even voice for use across business is also important within information applications and even utilizing analytics to enrich the information. This effort can be advanced further by providing the best possible use of business intelligence (BI) and also business technology event-focused operational intelligence and its cousin geographic-data focused location intelligence that our firm has been advocating for some period of time. As the dynamics of these new technologies and gaps to business intelligence become more obvious, many organizations are coming into their age in getting the basics of BI embedded within their enterprise architecture where it can be more readily available using range of data sources. Of course new challenges to this traditional approach have been existent for many years and BI is also available in easily downloadable approaches like open source and also easily accessible through cloud computing rental approaches using software as a service methods.
But the workforce with applications and information more easily available can help in people to people interactions across business processes, organizational areas and Internet to customers and supplier. This is being radically transformed through unified communication and utilization of Internet based technology. But this is only the start as business collaboration and social media technologies on the Internet now easily recognized as needing to be more available in the enterprise in a focused and secured manner. Making business processes more collaboratively enabled with information and actions available at individual and group level is just part of what is needed to make the transformation changes to existing methods of using technology effectively. This should be no surprise and many organizations who have not enabled this level of sophistication now realize higher costs through slower decisions and laborious email chains that create more confusion than agreement. All of this is part of more effective use of technology as organizations realize the woes of using email, spreadsheets and presentations for this business computing and realize there are better methods to manage and operate their business. At the same time very simple methods to manage tasks and calendars for more effective business interactions are now more readily available with little overhead and IT management.
This new generation of applications and tools do not require just a purchase, install and use approach but also can be adopted through a rental and lease model where software and technology to support it are part of a cloud computing movement. This shift of making technology simpler to adopt and use that depending on how you calculate TCO can be more cost effective. Of course cloud computing is not just for business as IT who realize that they are not able to just buy and implement everything to keep their business counterparts happy with their services.
All of this is part of establishing a robust technology charter for your organization that can deliver the value you expect across business and IT. Now it is up to you to determine how you go beyond conventional wisdom and step forward to drive change through using technology effectively.
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Mark Smith – CEO & EVP Research