by Philippe A. Abdoulaye

CIOs should listen more, say champions of new IT thinking like Joe McKendrick

Jan 11, 2017
CIOIT Leadership

The wonders of the latest IT innovations are used by a number of IT industry players to sell illusions to CIOs. Joe McKendrick reminds us that it is time to move on to another IT paradigm more in tune with the needs of the business.

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Credit: Thinkstock

The rising digital economy is transforming the competitive environment. Whatever the industry, it forces companies to change the way they do business and to therefore rely on new IT paradigms. 

Contrary to what the massive articles, blog posts and white papers suggest, the IT community — including vendors, consultants and thought leaders — is resisting the change and hanging on to the old belief that IT tools can fix any business issue. 

That reasoning isn’t valid in today’s digital competitive context: An increasing number of people believe that today’s IT thinking must evolve and concretely take into account business leaders’ visions and expectations.

The changing competitive environments forces businesses to adjust their business model, IT must urgently adapt.

What’s happening is this: The proliferation of startups and innovative digital services (e.g., IoT applications) are forcing leaders of business units to adopt innovation, market responsiveness and timely revenue as the competitive differentiators that will help them survive the ongoing disruption waves. They think flexible and agile environments  will help them meet the digital economy’s competitive challenges.

Let’s be serious: Being flexible and agile isn’t achieved by only deploying more tools, but also by proactively eliminating the organizational and operational dysfunctions that prevent it.

By analogy, it’s not because, say, Toni Morrison uses (presumably) Microsoft Word to write her novels that they’re rewarded with the Nobel prize. It’s primarily because she uses her human attributes, including creativity, imagination, effort, motivation, thought, vision and the like.

The IT thinking must evolve and acknowledge the proven fact that to grow and prosper in the digital era, businesses must combine organizational effectiveness and technology efficiency.

That thinking, prominent on the business side is completely ignored by the IT community. However, an increasing number of visionaries whose works and writings deserve to be known have been alerting IT leaders. Joe McKendrick is one of them.

Joe McKendrick is considered by many the best promoter of the new IT thinking in the cloud space

McKendrick’s article “Cloud and Business Transformation: This Time, It’s Different” drew my attention to his vision in 2012. It correlated cloud computing, organizational disruption and business transformation and echoed my doubts about how the Big 4 consulting firms approached cloud transformation.

Joe is an author, independent researcher and speaker exploring innovation, information technology trends and markets. He regularly publishes with Forbes and ZDNet. He’s read by several hundred thousand people who rightly see him as the most relevant cloud thought leader.

His readers and followers praise his thinking, which constantly seeks to reconcile IT with the business’s core expectations, “But IT is but one small piece of the cloud story. A much bigger story is coming from the business itself. The curtain is now opening on cloud computing’s second act, which is all business. But this is also the hard part,” he reminds us in a Forbes article titled “Cloud Computing’s Second Act Is All Business.” CIOs should seriously meditate these wise words if they want to sit at the business table.

Joe’s weekly articles and blog posts play a central role in the emergence of the new IT thinking business leaders have been calling for. 

In “Cloud Computing’s Second Act Is All Business,” he says, “The business as a whole is only beginning to grasp the advantages of cloud beyond IT efficiency.” And he goes on to say, “Now, in this next phase of cloud, the emphasis is shifting to its value as a business solution” and then highlights the impacts of technology on the organizational effectiveness of businesses: “Cloud is helping to reorganize businesses, from hierarchies to networks. Rather than a typical hierarchy, the network structure requires groups, or squads, of specialists and experts who are defined as much by their own skill sets as the relationships and contacts they have with other groups in the business.” Then he concludes, “Organizations are functioning as self-directed teams, and cloud offers the ability to secure any and all resources as needed, without the need to clear decisions through a central authority.”

Everybody is talking about digital, but there’s really no consensus on what a digital organizational should look like. Nor is it clear what advantages are gained.

In another Forbes article, “The Elusive Mystique of the Digital Enterprise,” he alerts us to the fact that “everybody is talking about digital, but there’s really no consensus on what a digital organization should really look like. Nor is it clear what advantages are gained,” and then he says he is surprised that “somewhere along the line, there’s also a great disconnect taking place. Everyone is buying into the digital religion, no questions asked, without really understanding what this nirvana is actually supposed to be.”

Finally he hits the nail on the head: “What happens is digital technologies get layered on top of existing organizations with expectations of overnight results. But outmoded, calcified processes and thinking simply gain a digital crutch. Perhaps the closest anyone has come to describing the ideal of what the digital enterprise should be was about 30 years ago, when the great management thinker and author Peter Drucker talked about the rise of automation and system-driven processes but knew that the only way to ensure success as technology took over was to unleash the power and innovation of the individual. Outmoded industrial-era management had to be vanquished. Information was becoming the new commodity, and it took motivated knowledge workers to wring value out of it. Teamwork and cooperation — not command and control — would bring profits to the online organization.”

Caught up in the merry-go-round of today’s noisy market and amazed by the massive IT innovations, IT leaders lack hindsight and need this new breed of IT strategists: thought leaders.

In the cloud space, Joe McKendrick is definitely the best.