Digital Disruption Comes to Life

I attended a great conference recently on digital business disruption that was put on by Ray Wang and the Constellation  Research Group.   After attending the annual Gartner Symposium last month, I was starting to feel that the terms digital business and digital disruption were getting over used and over hyped.  However, at Constellation’s Connected Enterprise conference, there were many great examples of disruption presented by a wide range of forward thinking business leaders.  These were people leading this disruption along with industry thought leaders.  Though Gartner’s view of a digital business as the “merging of the digital and physical worlds” is fine, it’s the real examples that are meaningful in understanding the disruption that is happening today.  It’s about using social, data, mobility and the cloud in driving change, leveraging these forces to interact with customers in new ways and improving how employees engage and work.  I believe it’s also about the consumerization of IT and the change being brought to enterprise IT.

My takeaways from the conference on digital disruption were:

  • 2015 will be a watershed year for the Internet of Things, with wearables making a true impact for the first time.
  • Old line businesses are really coming up with innovative and different ways of using digital technologies to open up new business channels, increase customer engagement, improve how companies interact with employees, and streamline the way they deal and operate with vendors and partners.
  • Thinking digital needs to be engrained in the company culture with a top-down push.  Projects can come up from the bottom, but the headwinds against real transformation can be strong without buy-in across the executive teams.
  • Every industry is being affected by digital disruption whether they are b-c or b-b companies.  There are many opportunities in every business for this to happen.
  • Those that don’t understand what’s happening and don’t reflect on how they need to change will be left behind and will lose to the competition.
  • Companies need to promote using digital in all aspects of their business to achieve the biggest gains.
  • To truly be digitally effective and disruptive, an organization has to value the use of technology in driving change.  As we’ve heard many times recently, every business is now a technology company.
  • Personalization and process change are just as important as a new business channel in the digital world.  It’s how you use mobile, the cloud and data, and how you interact with your customers and partners that are important.

Just a few of the digital disruption themes and examples presented were:

  • Using crowd-sourcing to build quick, low-cost apps in the federal government.  This was a great example of thinking digital and the government’s use of cloud to bring agility into the ecosystem of dysfunction is growing faster than you think.  There are many innovative technology leaders now involved, so you hope they can change how the government interacts with its citizens.
  • Using personalization to create the ATM of the future.  With mobile and digital the norm, banks continue to be hugely disrupted with they way customers want to interact, and personalization is very important to customer satisfaction.
  • Leveraging gamification in the restaurant business to help increase internal employee engagement and satisfaction, while reducing turnover.
  • A future of work discussion on how age is not the critical issue on how well  employees adopt digital business themes.  A person’s general digital proficiency and desire is key, while the company culture is also a very strong factor.
  • It was noted that 20% of the workforce is retiring in the next 10 years.  That has a big impact on the future of work and what work will be like in 10 years.  The change that’s happened over the last few years will only accelerate.
  • A data analytics example was a presentation on the historical trends in social mobility, and the realization that a deeper dive into the data of cause and effect can potentially help determine how to increase social mobility.  That’s an important issue affecting not just one business, but the whole country.  Another example was using data to predict how people might react to certain notifications, while potentially helping to automate the response.
  • Termed the “Notification Society”, the impact of mobility on our personal and work life continue to drive how we work and interact with each other.  There isn’t a business today that isn’t impacted either directly, or indirectly by the changing needs of the workforce.

A related topic that was heavily discussed, and one that is getting a lot of press these day, is the concept of the Chief Digital Officer.  A lot of chatter on whether there even should be a separate role, or should the digital role be called out within other leaders in Marketing or IT. In my view, the skills that a CDO needs may already be present in the current leadership team.  If digital means thinking about the customer, and looking to see how digital technologies can change the old physical way of doing things, then these skill sets should already be present in the CIO.  It’s still about focusing on the customer and increasing revenue, so these are things the CIO should already be doing. If not, then the CIO is more of an order taking, operational leader.

At my company, we are moving quickly away from the routine physical aspects of our business, using digital to engage more with our tenants, investors, partners, vendors and employees.  We’re trying new social media campaigns at different properties knowing that the trend in our industry is just beginning.

Every business has examples of how it’s being transformed by digital technologies with much more change to come.

User-Centric IT

I went to an interesting CEO/CIO gathering a few weeks back where the concept of User-Centric IT was presented by some of the leading cloud providers.  The concept, pushed and marketed by Box, Marketo, Skyhigh, Jive, Okta, Zendesk, and GoodData, professes that enterprise software should first and foremost focus on the needs of the end-user.   To be more specific, the principles of User-Centric IT are:

  1. User-Centric IT serves the business by empowering people.
  2. User-Centric IT adapts to the way people work, not the other way around.
  3. People, information and knowledge must connect in real-time.
  4. Mobility is a work-style preference, not a device.
  5. Security should be inherent and transparent to the user experience.

In my view, User-Centric IT is real and is part of the changing expectations of enterprise users due to the rise of the Consumerization of IT, and the pervasiveness of the cloud.  The principles of empowerment, mobility, and real-time connections are all standard in consumer technologies today.  It’s these expectations that are driving enterprise IT to change its focus to how the user works.  Work is now a thing and not a place.  No longer are applications just about functionality, with UI design an afterthought.  Employees are using great, user-centric tools at home and they expect the same easy to use tools while working.  The same concept is driving BYOD where users have choices in the devices they use, opting for the more consumer oriented devices.  User-Centric IT uses these same principles in empowering users to be more productive, while wrapping it all up with the security enterprises require out of their applications.

These principles are also what’s great about the cloud and why legacy apps and on-prem software face an uphill battle.  As I come across more and more industry vertical, cloud based options these days, it’s wonderful to see how each new company has taken usability to a higher level.  Of course, the social and mobile trends taking over many enterprises are the other forces driving this concept. Can’t argue with that.

The various vendors who have joined forces in marketing this principle all have products that come at the issue from different angles, whether it be enterprise collaboration, security, identity, marketing or analytics.  What they all have in common is a goal towards user enablement and mobility.  Now, some will argue that this concept is just pure marketing with no real substance.  There is definitely a marketing bent to it no doubt,  but the underlying core message does resonate with those of us who believe these trends are real.  Whether you just call it the Consumerization of IT or something else, you can’t argue with principles.  As a real believer of the how the cloud is quickening the pace of innovation in businesses and the inherent value it creates, peeling back the marketing layer uncovers real trends.

At the event, there was a lot of discussion about the challenges this brings to CIO’s.  Some were concerned about cloud sprawl, while others are dealing with deeply entrenched legacy apps that can’t just be switched or upgraded overnight.  There was also a discussion on User-Led IT vs. User-Centric IT.  User-Led is where integration, security, data  quality, and governance is given little value, focusing purely on the best looking and quickest to implement.  User-Centric IT takes this up a level, valuing the needs of the employee, but layering on the real security, integration and data quality requirements enterprises need.   These are real issues and real concerns, but it shouldn’t stop the conversation.  I believe that the CIO’s that are truly innovating and driving cloud adoption today, with an eye on social and mobile, are already using these principles for transformation and innovation.  As the cloud becomes even more entrenched as the go-to strategy for companies, concepts like User-Centric IT will be become more commonplace.

Here is a link to the User-Centric IT website


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