Monday, June 30, 2014

The Digirati are coming

With the advent of the Internet two decades back euphoria around internet based business models exploded upon all of us. Predictions like “if you are not on the web, you will be dead or if you don’t have an internet strategy, you don’t have a business strategy” shook up everyone and pushed them towards limits of paranoia. Untenable valuations on shaky business models led to the dot bust that wiped out millions from budgets and zillions in market capitalization. Now digital is rivaling the din of the past and it has everyone scrambling again.

Some CIOs saw it coming earlier than others; creating awareness within their enterprises, they attempted to raise the bar. Initial reactions of cynicism and indifference led many CIOs to return to their comfort zones while the world around them flirted with the digital wave. As success stories started trickling in, it gave jitters to the disbelievers and created a flurry of disconnected activity. Every CXO wanted a digital project; everyone added the word “digital” in the headline; many ignored the CIO to avoid embarrassing discussions.

SMAC came the response from consultants, vendors and the IT folks alike; to get started on your digital journey, you need the skills, talent and a link back to the physical world that IT provides. Many CIOs reveled in the limelight of having been ahead of the game while the rest joined the confused ranks adding to the chaos with technology play. As individual pieces of Social, Mobility, Analytics and Cloud made way into various initiatives, the picture started to become clear that digital is not an option anymore; it is going to be a way of life.

Board room and management discussions on digital attempted to create correlations with revenue growth, customer service, enablement of suppliers and business partners, automation for improved process efficiency. Now the connections to enterprise goals are shifting the discussion from the likes of Big Data Analytics or Mobility to creating new business models or tapping new profit pools and outpacing competition. Everyone wants to be anointed with title of the CDO to be hailed as the hero when success arrives.

Competition from new age companies in some sectors like hospitality, retail, virtual collaboration, and travel and entertainment has disrupted conventional age old business models leading to a scramble to catch up. Industrial giants slowed by corporate inertia are waking up to new threat and opportunities. Willing to use their scale, muscle power and enormous resources, they potentially have the ability to devour the small fish while they establish new business models and reinvent their business, systems and leverage the digital wave.

Silos of digital initiatives will at best test a hypothesis, for enterprise wide impact, cohesive and integrated approach with CEO alignment is essential. Reality is, IT and business strategies are no longer separate, and they have become inseparable. With everything going online and “Internet of Things” creating an avalanche of hitherto unexplored data, enterprises are pushing the boundaries of analytical possibilities. Corporate and information boundaries are disappearing demanding democratization of analytics and decision making.

The oft repeated question to CIOs raises its head again on their position in this evolutionary revolution ? IT teams need to focus on not just scale but also the new application ecosystem that requires IT teams to discard legacy and pursuit of monolithic systems and shift focus on agile built for purpose apps. This paradigm shift requires preparation for non-stop business in the interconnected world. Customers are challenging the business of incremental innovation and forcing companies to listen and co-create new products and services.

Digital is here and how ! For most CIOs BYOD/T was a beginning, BYOW (Wearable) will stretch the already delicate ecosystem. Finicky customers expecting instant gratification threaten fragile brand reputations with 140 characters and less. Consumption patterns are shifting thereby forcing CIOs to rework corporate peer relationships. I believe that CIOs can reclaim lost ground by challenging existing digital alignments and build the foundation that will help the enterprise win in raging battle for revenue, profitability and the customer.

Your enterprise digital stance may be a challenge at the moment; culturally maybe the company does not enable open ideas or visible risk; it is up to you to decide whether you want to be a bystander while the world moves ahead or you want your destiny to be linked to the new world of digital enablement ? Are you ready ?

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