Winds are shifting. Are we listening?

Hemant Asher | Jun 15th, 2014

As leaders and practitioners responsible for enabling technology led differentiations for our organizations we are witnessing several shifts at once. We are inundated with phrases such as 'blurring of physical and digital boundaries’, ‘internet of things’, ‘digital enterprise’, ‘crowd sourcing’, ’scalable data centers’, ‘bid data’ and many more. While in their own right each of these are important trends and represent significant shifts, the question is what do these mean for us, our organizations and our own roles within the organization we serve?

In my opinion no matter what business you are in and no matter what widget you make, you are increasingly becoming part of connected ecosystem/s that takes some kind of 'Service' to the market. Ecosystems of suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, retailers have always existed in business. So what is the difference? The difference is in a) the connectedness of these ecosystems, b) expectations of high responsiveness and c) extent of information flowing through the ecosystem is demanding new capabilities from us to be a Connected Enterprise.

Winds are shifting. Are we listening?

There are 3 key shifts of the Connected Enterprise that will drive how IT leadership redefines its role within the enterprise.

From delivering Great Product to Delivering Great Experience:

If for a moment we take service orientation of whatever we consume as individuals or enterprises our focus immediately shifts from delivering great products to delivering a great experience. Case in point; buy any Apple product online and chose to have it picked up from Apple store. Experience of entering Apple store with your order confirmation number already in your email on your smartphone and walking out with your specific order within 3 minutes of entering the store without queuing up, without any paper what so ever and with personalized help to set the device is phenomenal. It is this experience that made a good ‘product’ great. Take another example of Syngenta one of the worlds largest agricultural seed manufacturer; on its web-site has an offering called 'E-Licensing’. What does a seed manufacturer have to do with e-licensing service? Syngenta not only sells seeds to farmers world over but weaves a knowledge service around their products to help farmers get better yields on their crop based on real time local climatic conditions. Again a Good Product made into a Great Experience. There are several similar examples in the industry where Experience personifies the brand.

From being One-stop-shop to being Part of the Ecosystem:

Customers are buying end-to-end experience. Experience is often a combination of a physical product/s coupled with services bundled with it. In our business today we buy an email service where we pay per user mailbox per month. We are completely oblivious of the fact about what hardware server our service runs on, what storage, what backup software and what data center is this hosted in. All those who manufactured those individual components that earlier they took to market by themselves are now part of a larger ecosystem and in most cases are tied financially to a similar pay per use model. As a result businesses are constantly in the process of finding their place in the ecosystem, defining new partners, evolving new business models that require rethinking of accountability, SLAs, customer touch points, revenue models among many other

From Automating Complexity to Managing Complexity:

As technology leaders we spent last two decades in automating and connecting processes that helped our businesses scale operationally. We automated several repetitive tasks followed by automating complex processes. We also took a step forward and automated complexity around cross enterprise processes such as supply chain planning and visibility, channel management etc. We have systems in place for each known function with reasonable sophistication. The challenge now has moved from automating to managing this complexity primarily as we become part of the extended ecosystem that demands higher responsiveness and flexibility. What this means for us is to have ability to take these investments and expose these as lego blocks of capabilities delivered as services to our organizations and our partners. In turn shifting our focus from automating to managing complexity.

As practitioners and advisors within the CIOs office we need to understand answers to the following key questions about the business we serve. What is our current business model? How is it expected to evolve over next 12-18 months? Who is the customer of our business? Is that definition shifting? In what way are our products/services shifting? Do we own the touch point with the end customer / consumer in the ecosystem? Who owns the customer connect in the ecosystem? How detached are we from that point of customer connect? What are our accountabilities as part of the ecosystem? What are our SLAs to the ecosystem? Is this shift likely to change our revenue model? How does this change the sales compensation? How does all this change the compliance requirement for the organization? Etc.

To evolve our own contribution to the organization and respond to the change we need to be participating in the strategy and in many cases disrupting the strategy through technology.