It doesn’t matter how many Macs, iPads, iPhones or even Surface devices you throw at your business. If you’re not prepared to change the way you do business then you’re probably living on borrowed time.
We’ve seen numerous examples of huge technology deployments that fail to deliver the results expected of them.
I’d argue that in nearly every case, responsibility for that failure will ultimately rest in poor application of the technologies put in place.
You see, it isn’t just about adopting a new platform or what-not, it’s about thinking deeply about how that tech will be used, and answering questions around tech support and implementation alongside legacy business processes.
It’s also about getting rid of existing business siloes.
IT is exactly what it says it is, it’s about information and the communication of information. When you think about the significance of this and apply it to businesses that are becoming increasingly digitized and increasingly mobile, then it shouldn’t be a great leap to recognize that when your business processes are connected up, your business communications must also change.
What does that mean?
This is how I see it: In many more traditional business structures you’ll find different departments and different divisions refusing to share the information they possess.
In part, this reflects previous competitive models in which different units were expected to struggle against each other in some bogus application of survival of the fittest theory. These highly competitive siloes would attempt to outshine each other and this (so the theory goes) led to better overall results across the business.
This approach simply doesn’t work when all your business processes are connected, your business teams mobile, and your employees increasingly empowered to choose their own devices, select their own systems, and engage in digital change.
Incoming employees, particularly, expect that their voices will be heard, as I was recently told by both SAP Vice President for enterprise mobility Martin Lang and IBM CIO Fletcher Previn.
“I don’t think we have a choice but to offer choice anymore because of the expectations of employees coming up,” said Lang.
“You have to create an environment in which great people want to work,” said Previn.
The focus on collaboration, empowerment and autonomy is naturally toxic to old silo-based business practises – though I don’t suppose that would matter very much if the new business approach wasn’t so effective.
In contrast to old-fashioned working practices, an enterprise that has figured out how to use technology, broken down the internal departmental walls, and fully engaged the enthusiasm of great employees is always going to be more effective, more agile and more capable of identifying and acting upon new business opportunities.
Enterprises can learn a lot from the SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition) approach developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedure when he was a consultant on the Maine Learning Initiative when Apple laptops were given to every student and teacher.
In many technology investments, enterprises get as far as the Substitution, and never get to the last part, in which their business is Redefined.
Yet, all the analysis shows that those enterprises that manage to make that leap become inherently more efficient and more engaged, giving them strong advantages against more traditional hide-bound competitors trapped in dated business practices.
Living in the future
Today’s tech landscape sees Microsoft more interested in providing multi-platform enterprise-focused services than it is in selling operating systems; it sees IBM investing tens of billions of dollars in Red Hat as it works to create its own cloud-based enterprise business platform (which may have a huge impact on the future of the PC industry); we see Apple reach partnerships to be a peer player across all these verticals. We also see Google’s irresponsible privacy-destructive business practices increasingly called into question.
That’s where we are.
We’re also seeing some of the world’s most risk-averse businesses (at least when it comes to their own money) – the banks – facing technological challenges potentially so damaging that Gartner warns 80% of them could go out of business, become commoditized, or otherwise struggle to survive by 2030.
Vision is everything
Why is this the case?
Because, despite making deep technology investments (it’s a truism that the Fintech industry boasts it has more developers than the big tech firms), banks are stuck inside narrow old business models.
David Furlonger, Gartner vice president and distinguished analyst says this leaves the sector ripe for disruption.
“Digital transformation is largely a myth as institutional mindsets, processes and structures stand firm,” he said.
He points out that most in the sector are focused only on digital efficiency and are not making the leap to embrace the digital redefinition of their industries.
“The future of the financial services industry is increasingly weightless, requiring few physical assets to establish or maintain a presence. That makes the industry especially vulnerable to disruption by digital competitors,” he said.
He also said one thing which has inspired this entire post, warning that financial services CIOs must look beyond the technology to develop a “more coherent response to digital business.
“It’s important to set the digital vision and destination first, then think about how to lead an organization there,” he said.
Precisely. Because it’s a fairly safe bet that numerous non-traditional financial services providers have done just that.
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