IT: Think Digital, Think Business, Think Big
Business leaders expect and want IT departments to lead organizations' transformation into digital enterprises – but at least one study finds technologists fall short of corporate managers' expectations.
Almost 70 percent of 250 global managers surveyed believe technology has become "far more important to their business," yet only 46 percent of respondents said their IT departments have good or very high levels of innovation, according to the newly released BPI Network study, "Where Can IT Innovation Accelerate Business Transformation?" On the other hand, 52 percent cited their IT departments as "poor" or "just making progress" in this regard, the research found. A mere 43 percent agreed their IT department were successfully becoming more strategic, responsive, and valued as a partner; 58 percent rated IT as poor or making only moderate steps, the report said.
Underscoring the value technology plays in transforming organizations, 87 percent of business line executives reported they spend more time or are more committed to understanding the "strategic implications" of technology including improving responsiveness; enhancing their competitive edge; delivering applications faster; understanding and embracing disruptive technologies, and rethinking customer retention and acquisition, according to BPI Network.
"They're going to trade shows. They hear it from their peers. They have vendors coming through the door and pitching [technology] directly to them," Tom Murphy, editorial director of BPI Network told EnterpriseTech. "They're seeing their competition adopting these technologies and gaining ground on them."
In particular, respondents cited the benefits of datacenter and cloud transformation for greater agility and responsiveness to business changes; reduced costs, and faster time to market. In addition, 45 percent plan to modernize and upgrade their datacenters, while 45 percent expect to adopt a hybrid IT model of cloud and on-premise datacenter, the study said.
"The new technology that's coming in is not necessarily technology the existing team has the skills to master," said Murphy, referring to the burgeoning reliance on software, cloud, and new tools for business. "For companies stuck in the traditional datacenter or traditional IT thinking, they're almost out of the race. Innovation is not incremental change. It's doing something that disrupts the normal flow of business and disrupts it to a level where you retain more customers and gain more customers."
Indeed, 68 percent of respondents in the 2015 Harvey Nash CIO Survey preferred IT projects that make money, compared with 34 percent of CIOs that prioritize projects that save money. Digital innovation is encouraging them to consider new platforms, infrastructure, and applications, the report found.
Neither study specifically addressed high performance computing – but a look at the top transformative technologies on business executives' minds demonstrates one recommendation IT professionals can make to immediately propel themselves into the position of agent of (disruptive) change. After all, most of these technologies are data- and analytics-intensive, including real-time intelligence from Internet of Things (IoT) sensors; social media data mining, plus micro-targeting and personalization based on big data analytics. All these demands call for powerful systems that can handle an ever-increasing flood of data and produce real-time results for distributed users across multiple applications.
"Nobody knows how we're going to handle the flood of data we'll have in a few years. The fact we've gotten this far and done so much with big data is pretty impressive," Murphy said. "This is all going to smack into shore very, very quickly."
Gaining insight across an organization's entire operation is one challenge to digital transformation, agreed Merim Becirovic, senior director of business operations at Accenture, in an interview. The consulting and service provider has multiple steering committees – from the c-level to individual business groups – to encourage collaboration and user input, as well as educate IT about business short- and long-term aims, he said.
"Our goal is to have vision and visibility across the organization. That doesn't mean necessarily we're in the details of every single group. The R&D group does some bigger things with HPC. They work with our architect, we work with our people, so we don't have that shadow IT concept," said Becirovic. "We, as an organization, have all these corporate data systems, data lakes, and all these things we want to run analytics on. You can't get to that level of disruption unless you really know what all those systems are, know your governance, and so forth. We run at least 400-plus projects a year across the organization. How do you know any point in time what people are working on, is it on time, are we reacting to things that are happening in production, are we meeting our deliverables… all the different things we do."
To tackle this, Accenture's IT team built CIO Now Digital Reporting, a platform that eliminated 80 percent of its previous reporting inventory – or 125,000 pieces of information about the business – and streamlined reporting from seven data sources into one. The system gave more insight into IT's impact on business, in part by tracking how IT investments enhanced operations for years after the initial investment. United with Accenture's focus on having the right strategy and governance, this ability to see across so much data is transforming Accenture – and its clients, Becirovic said.
"You can always send somebody a table and say the rows are countries and columns are peoples' [job] levels. It's a whole other thing when you put up a map of the world and you can click on the map and see who's working there at what level in real time," he said. "If we can start to show information that way… now you've changed the game. Everyone's working the same way. Being more transparent and having more of these things available helps. We're continuing on the digital agenda. It’s a journey. You've got to have the governance. You've got to have the strategy. You've got to work with the business to be aligned. Then the floodgates are open."