by Alex Cullen and James Staten

How CIOs Can Enable an Empowered Business

Feb 23, 2011
Business IntelligenceCIO

IT will see a lot of change by 2020 and as CIO, you need to help your company get out in front. Here are four keys to success from Forrester Research.

Is your IT strategic plan set up for success over the next 10 years? If you’re like most enterprises today, the answer is no and the amount of change you will see far exceeds your expectations.

Forrester sees three forces reshaping IT by 2020: the explosion of business-ready, self-service technologies; the growing influence of a tech-savvy, self-sufficient workforce; and a radically new business market shaped by emerging economies that will soon dwarf the established ones. These may not sound like IT concerns, but they will profoundly affect how IT is viewed.

In the past, when new waves of technology swept into our businesses—beginning with PCs in the 1980s and continuing to today’s self-service technologies—the reaction has been a pendulum swinging between centralized, industrialized IT and decentralized, embedded IT. Businesses must move to a model we call Empowered Business Technology (BT), which embeds enabling technology innovation into the business while providing just enough centralized coordination and oversight to meet enterprisewide goals and control costs.

Empowered BT lets businesses pursue opportunities with grassroots solutions while still balancing enterprise concerns. Key to success is the interplay between four new meta-roles: Visionaries, who look for new tech-enabled business opportunities; consultants, who provide on-demand expertise to turn these ideas into reality; integrators, who connect innovative solutions to each other and to core systems; and sustainability experts, who ensure solutions are scalable and sustainable in the enterprise. These roles are combined with a new operating model based on guidelines, mentoring and inspection. Each business organization will fill these roles in their unique way.

What does this mean to CIOs? First, work with your business colleagues to determine how radical a change your company envisions so you know what priority to place on transforming IT. Then work with the innovators in your company to craft a firm-specific vision and begin working toward it. To do this right, IT needs to embrace business ownership of technology decisions. As CIO, you should be poised to help your company profit from the massive change that’s afoot in the business climate.

Alex Cullen and James Staten are vice presidents at Forrester Research.