Tag Archives: CIO

5 shifts that will shape the future of IT

Shift Happens

I have a new post up over at CIO of the Future, ‘5 shifts that will shape the future of IT’. I was reading some of the analyst views on how consumerisation and cloud are driving us to adopt new operating models. Most of the points of view I was seeing seemed to miss the point though. They were talking about how the role of the IT department might change – complete with nice charts showing as-is and to-be responsibilities – when they should have been talking about how the role IT plays in business is changing.

It’s pretty easy to sketch out the role that you would like IT departments will play in the future. However, the that role is more likely to be shaped by the trends that drive us to adopt a new operating model, rather than the preferences of the incumbents. As Scott McCloud pointed out, all the action happens in the gap between two frames, rather than within the pictures inside them.

My view is that the key to understanding where IT, and the IT department, ends up in the new operating model will be determined by the trends that drive us to adopt the new model. The interesting question then is “what are these trends?”

In the post I rough out what I think might be the five strongest trends that are shaping the future of IT in business. In summary, these are:

  1. Enterprise IT is no longer an infrastructure problem, it’s not an asset we own
  2. Consumer trends drive enterprise IT, rather than enterprise IT driving consumer trends
  3. The old core IT skills are not as valuable as they used to be
  4. How we define the value of IT has expanded (it’s a lot more than ROI now)
  5. External obligations – such as financial reporting, anti money-laundering and counter terrorism financing – will trigger the transition to new operating models (which I’ve written about before)

I’m pretty comfortable that these five trends a driving the majority of change we’re seeing in business at the moment. I’d greatly appreciate it if you head over to the article and leave your thoughts to see if I’m heading in the right direction.

Image source: Pilot Theater.

New Business Models Need New Approaches to IT


I have a new post up at CIO of the FutureNew Business Models Need New Approaches to IT. This post brings together a couple of things that I’ve been thinking about recently.

The first is the debate around who will ‘own’ IT in business. Will it be the CIO, the traditional ower of IT? Will it be a different department, such at marketing which has become the big spender on IT in the last few years? Or will be be some new department with a new leader, one that subsumes the current IT department just as the IT department and CIO took over from the Data Centre Manager? All of these options seem short sighted to as they appear to be only addressing the symptoms and not the cause of the problem.

The second thing I’ve been thinking about is anti money-laundering (AML) and counter terrorism-financing (CTF) regulation, since I’ve just done an update to the Technological Considerations of AML/CTF Programs piece published by LexisNexis as part of their Anti-Money Laundering and Financial Crime publication. A side effect of some of the new regulation in this space is that many more companies might be pulled into the regulatory framework – both public and private companies – due to their use of or integration with complimentary currencies. This has interesting implications for enterprise-wide governance models.

My ah-ha moment was when I realised that the debate we’re seeing around the role of the IT department and CIO would be better framed as a question on how IT should be governed in the new digital businesses that are emerging at the moment. Or, as I said in New Business Models Need New Approaches to IT:

Instead of focusing on who the new owner of IT might be, the question we should be asking ourselves is “How does a digital business consume (govern) information technology?” This is an important question, and one that we need to delve into more deeply. (Indeed, I like to keep posts fairly compact but this one post was roughly 2,000 words by the time I was happy that I’ve had covered the issue.)

It’s a long post, but the question is a nuanced one that needs that many words to work through the issues. I recommend that you head over to CIO of the Future and read it, and leave your thoughts in the comments.

Image source: mckinney75402

We’ve launched CIO of the Future

I was recently offered the opportunity to add another string to my bow: editor of CIO of the Future, a new forum that was being put together by Ross Dawson and the team at Advanced Human Technologies.

CIO of the Future Screen Shot

Ross captured the intent of the forum nicely when he announced the launch:

The themes of the publication are actually centered not so much on the CIO per se, as on the leadership required to create value as technology moves to the center of work, business, and society.

This goes beyond the role of the CIO and encompasses other executive roles, and indeed the strategy and positioning of both private and public sector organizations.

I’m grateful for the chance to work with Ross and the AHT team on such an interesting topic at an important time. Come along and see what we have to say, leave a comment, and (if you’d like to add your voice to the conversation) we’d love to feature your contribution.

The rules of enterprise IT

As I’ve pointed out before (possibly as I’m quite fond of games{{1}}) the game of enterprise IT has a long an proud history. I’ve also pointed out that the rules of this game need to change if enterprise IT — as we know it — is to remain relevant in the future{{2}}. This is triggered a few interesting conversations at the pub on just what are the old rules of IT.

[[1]]Capitalise: A game for the whole company to play![[1]]
[[2]]People don’t like change. (Or do they?)[[2]]

Enterprise IT, as we know it today, is an asset management business, the bastard son of Henry Ford’s moving production line. Enterprise IT takes the raw material of business processes and technology and turns them into automated solutions. From those first card tabulators through to today’s enterprise applications, the focus has been on delivering large IT solutions into the business.

The rules of enterprise IT are the therefore rules of business operations. After a fair amount of coffee and beer with friends, the following 4 ± 2 rules seems to be a fair minimum set (in no particular order).

Keep the lights on. Or, put more gently, the ticket to the strategy table is a smooth running business. Business has become totally reliant on IT, while at the same time IT is still seen as something of a black art run by a collection of unapproachable high priests. The board might complain about the cost and pain of an ERP upgrade, but they know they have to find the money if they want to successfully close the books at the end of the financial year. While this means that the money will usually be found, it also means that the number one rule of being a CIO is to keep the transactions flowing. Orders must be taken, products shipped (or services provided), invoices sent and cash collected. IT is an operational essential, and any CIO who can’t be trusted to keep the lights on won’t even have time to warm up their seat.

Save money. IT started as a cost saving exercise: automatic tabulation machines to replace rooms full of people shuffling papers, networks to eliminate the need to truck paper from one place to another. From those first few systems through to today’s modern enterprise solutions, applications have been seen as a tool to save time and money. Understand what the business processes or problem is, and then support the heavy information lifting with technology to drive cost savings and reduce cycle time. Business cases are driven by ideas like ROI, capturing these savings over time. Keep pushing the bottom line down. These incremental savings can add up to significant changes, such as Dell’s make-to-order solution{{3}} which enabled the company to operate with negative working capital (ie. they took your cash before they needed to pay their suppliers), but the overall approach is still based on using IT to drive cost savings through the automation of predefined business processes.

[[3]]Dell’s make to order solution leaves competitors in the dust.[[3]]

Build what you need. When applications are rare, then building them is an engineering challenge. You can’t just go to the store and by the parts you need, you need to create a lot of the parts yourself in your own machine shop. I remember the large teams (compared to today) from the start of my career. A CORBA project didn’t just need a team to implement the business logic, it needed a large infrastructure team (security guy, transaction guy …) as well. Many organisations (and their strong desire to build – or at least heavily customise – solutions) still work under this assumption. IT was the department to marshal large engineering teams who deliver the industrial grade solutions which can form the backbone of a business.

Ferrero Rocher
Crunch on the outside, soft and chewy in the middle.

Keep the outside outside. It’s common to have what is called a Ferrero Rocher{{4}} approach to IT: crunchy on the outside while soft and chewy in the middle. This applies to both security and data management. We visualise a strong distinction between inside and outside the enterprise. Inside we have our data, processes and people. Outside is everyone else (including our customers and partners). We harvest data from our operations and inject it into business intelligence solutions to create insight (and drive operational savings). We trust whatever’s inside our four walls, while deploying significant security measures to keep the evil outside.


It’s a separate question of whether or not these rules are still relevant in an age when business cycles are measured in weeks rather than years, and SaaS and cloud computing are emerging as the dominate modes of software delivery.

Dealing with hysterical raisins

Had an interesting chat with a CIO the other day. He’s been pushed to provide documentation in the field to meet regulatory requirements. This documentation needs to exist separately from the primary systems that the folk in the field use to do their jobs. I expect the regulation is intend to provide some sort of disaster recovery – the world is going to hell in a hand-basket, but at least you have the redundant documentation to work from.

As with a lot of regulation, it’s there for hysterical raisins rather then good reason, having out-lived it’s usefulness, and is now zealously enforced. Since the existing, primary documentation is delivered as part of the desktop/laptop SOE, this would mean providing the team with a second laptop to support the redundant documentation. I suppose there’s some logic in that.

The solution his team came up with is just brilliant. They found a cheap/free/cost-effective VM player and created a VM with the documentation and appropriate reading software in it. The VM image was then loaded onto a USB stick (even 16G sticks are pretty affordable now). Plug the USB stick into a PC (not sure if they got it working on a Mac) and you’re soon up and running, reading important documentation while the world burns around you. For bonus points, the team created the image with the VM hibernated, so it’s up and running in more-or-less an instant as you only need to wait for the hibernated image to restart.

Meeting the hysterical documentation requirements are now a breeze. Simply mail out new VM images on a USB stick. Put them on a nice lanyard and you might even get marketing to pay for it. Staff sign for the new stick, and drop the old one in a envelope to mail back for recycling.


Innovation [2009-07-13]

Another week and another collection of interesting ideas from around the internet.

As always, thoughts and/or comments are greatly appreciated.

This issue:

  • Neuromancer turns 25: What it got right, what it got wrong [Macworld]
    It’s been 25 years since William Gibson’s groundbreaking book. 25 years is an extremely long time in the technology world. What did he get right? And what did he get wrong?
  • 10 Products and Innovations from Recessions Past [Bill Shrink]
    We all associate recessions with negative things. Unemployment, slowdowns, and lost profits dominate the headlines and color most every recession-themed discussion. But this is only part of the story. Desperation breeds creativity, as many know. And as a testament to this timeless axiom, a number of the world’s foremost innovations came about during recessionary times. From increased convenience and food products, to formidable technological advances, the following represent some of the most noteworthy recession-borne innovations.
  • Six Myths of Innovation [CIO insight]
    Innovation has us often questioning our assumptions. Why not questions our assumptions about innovation?
  • How Nintendo Delights Its Customers [Peter Merholz]
    How did Nintendo come from a long way behind Microsoft and Sony, and end up dominating the industry?

Innovation [2008-11-17]

Another week and another collection of interesting ideas from around the Internet.

As always, thoughts and/or comments are greatly appreciated.

This issue:

The Scoop: Are we facing tech wreck take 2?

Stephen Tame (CIO @ JetStar), Mike Zimmerman (principle @ Technology Venture Partners) and myself are on Mark Jones’ The Scope this week. The show looks at the impact of the global economic crisis on the local and international technology industries.

The worldwide economic crisis has caused business to completely reevaluate spending priorities, and IT is no exception. What strategies must CIOs consider during the downturn? What impact will a difficult economic climate in 2009 have on enterprise technology spending?

Topics covered include:

  • What IT projects are likely to be cut immediately?
  • What IT projects will likely survive — what can’t we live without?
  • What advice do we have for CIOs evaluating IT projects. Is this the catalyst for more spending on outsourcing, SAAS, etc?
  • Other observations about the impact of worldwide downturn? eg. will this redefine how we think about sourcing IT products? What solutions should CIOs bring to the boardroom?

About The Scoop

The Scoop is an open, free-flowing conversation between industry peers. It’s about unpacking issues that affect CIOs, senior IT executives and the Australian technology industry. The conversation is moderated by Mark Jones, The Scoop’s host and producer. More information about The Scoop, including a list of previous guests, can be found here: