In this, my twelfth column for the Horizon CIO Podcast, I am describing just how extensive the landscape of change is that we all now face, and then scoping how you, the contemporary CIO, can best set out routes of transformational change genuinely relevant to your business.
In earlier columns I have written about the diversity of new capabilities (from Artificial Intelligence to Blockchain) spawned by the new undercroft of computing power we can all now access. But that undercroft is itself undergoing transformational change. A recent Economist article contrasted the Hyenas of cloud computing (the likes of AWS and Microsoft) with the new generation of Gazelles, young start ups focused on speciality compute services relevant to particular business (even micro?) verticals (this title is hosted on just such a vertical specialist).
Combine this with the widening impact of Big Software – the operational expassion of data storage, data processing and data networking as software leading to new all-software architectures (containers, Kubernetes, microservices…) and a flood of new supply-side ventures able to creatively work the big software’ into focused, agile services aligned to particular competitive needs.
We are already well into the era of having our technology delivered as services – the integration of increasingly powerful and specifically designed APIs at the heart of the software operations delivering these services enables almost automatic service integration – ending the costs and distractions at the heart of the older era of systems integration.
So also the new era of hybrid computing enabling the effective operational integration of on-premis and externally-sourced computing power in ways responsive to business requirements. And the power of the new big software driven architectures is feeding a determined re-architecting of the data layer, with the emergence of the data lake available to be drawn on in a diversity of directions as dictated by the specific needs of the moment.
And it is not only the technological landscape that is changing so radically. So also is the supplier landscape and the business models they seek to exploit. The new majors (who cannot but be awed by AWS’ recent financial results lined up against the great IBM’s!) but almost more importantly the massive surge in new tech ventures and their great diversity of new services, new capabilities.
Around us there is not much of the old world of IT commerce left on offer. But the reality is that a major part of the current operations of most enterprises still draw on much of that older world of the commerce of IT in practice. Legacy, legacy!
And, as I have pointed out in earlier columns, the transformational challenge affects not your enterprise alone, but also your customers, clients and your suppliers – the diversity of supply chains your enterprise positions within are all transforming their operations and strategies.
So how should you, as the contemporary CIO, set about giving effective leadership? Here are five ‘five foci of action’ that I propose!
Firstly adopt the motto and practice of paranoid optimism. (I acknowledge here a former editor of the Economist whose motto this was.) Be paranoid, as with such a range of transformational drivers in play somewhere there will be competitors, old and new, out to ‘eat your breakfast’. Be optimistic that, given your knowledge of your business, its markets and its customers, you should be able to win the competitive battle.
Secondly, as observed above, the competitive landscape is up and down and across the whole of your value chains – so how effective is your business intelligence? Can you articulate how each level, each corner of your business’ value chains are responding to the digital challenge? Can you deliver effective two-way dialogues with key players, partners, competitors to keep your intelligence current?
Thirdly, this is a business exercise, not simply a technical exercise – and one that requires Board engagement and leadership from the start. The organisation, and you as CIO, has to engage, educate, motivate your senior colleagues in an organised fashion – and guide/persuade the CEO into giving clear leadership.
Fourthly you have to create an understanding in your business of the range of the new capabilities, from Machine Learning to the Internet of Things (IoT), from Blockchain to Artificial Intelligence (AI): an articulation of where these new capabilities will most likely be of key, vital competitive benefit to your business: a scoping of where and how you need to migrate from legacy architectures into the new architectures: and shape a coherent Board supported plan of action to deliver the necessary transformational change!
Fifthly, and finally, this new world of IT practice and commerce is much richer in risk than the old – from the challenges of cybersecurity to the requirements for regulatory compliance. So assurance in the fullest sense needs to be made integral to your plans for transformation.
So, Dear Fellow CIO, this is it! Go to it – and fast……