Why the BT era is more important than the digital era

Technologies and 'eras' change. The only constant is the need for specific business outcomes.

The BT era: because business outcomes are the only constant
Credit: Pixabay

Some eras have begun

We’re said to be in the big data era, the cloud era, the internet-of-things era, the social media era, the selfie era, and the era of A.I.-human hybrid intelligence. The good news is: There’s a constant stream of technology innovations. Tech vendors are therefore the ones that often proclaim the beginnings and the here-to-stay of eras.

Some eras have ended

Suddenly things seem to have changed. The information age, the era of the brick-and-mortar bookstore, the era of high-end storage arrays or even the age of reason have all ended. Again, tech vendors probably announced the end.

Some good, some inappropriate

Some technology-defined eras may be good for your organization. Some may not be the right ones. Here's a simple example: Cloud may not be an appropriate technology for the developing world. Most people in developing countries may not have internet access, or if they do their connections may be unusably slow.

The BT era: Business outcomes are the only constant

One tech's end is another tech's beginning. The question on your mind is: Does it really make sense to keep moving in and out of technology eras as frequently as they come and go?

The answer is no — if you see things from your organization's viewpoint. And when you see things from that viewpoint, you will also see something that doesn't change: the need for specific business outcomes.

The business technology, or BT, era is a business-outcomes-focused era. It is technology-independent. It is industry-independent. And it works directly from the organization's viewpoint. Forrester Research had a definition for BT when founder George Colony was personally championing the new era some years ago: "Pervasive technology-use that boosts business results." More specifically, BT is a shift in the way that technology is selected, developed and leveraged for business value.

Organizations often invest in software without knowing its possible impact on customer value and on the organization’s financial performance. That was in part because the measures they paid attention to were focused around technology delivery (engineering + project management). Most of these objectives are important and must be met, but from the organization’s standpoint, the only thing that eventually justifies a software project is its potential to generate targeted business outcomes.

Organizations such as Forrester, British Airways, HP and Intel have reported moving into the BT era. Ann Livermore, an executive vice president at HP, said, “The age of information technology as we know it is over. The new reality is that technology doesn’t just support the business — technology powers the business and helps drive growth.”

Strategic outcomes, more specifically

If you've already embraced the BT era, your next step is to customize your software practice to focus on making strategic contributions. If you are still in the IT era, you have the opportunity to make a powerful entry directly into a strategy-focused BT era.

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