I’ll never forget a conversation I had with the head of IT at PepsiCo’s Pizza Hut division in 1984. At the time, Pizza Hut’s technology operation was completely mainframe-based. The IT chief (who had a PhD in computer science) told me clearly, and quite loudly, that PCs were toys that would never be part of his organization. Over his dead body.
Unfortunately, it turned out that way, figuratively speaking. PCs eventually became the primary technology for Pizza Hut employees to build spreadsheets, write memos and create presentations. In the field, PCs became the dominant technology at the point of sale. The CIO failed.
Oh my, that was painful.
This, far too often, is the norm. Technology revolutions are ignored–or worse, downplayed–by IT departments that are stuck maintaining legacy hardware and software, about which IT employees have deep knowledge. Meanwhile, end users see great potential in new technologies, but they’re stymied by an IT department that’s stuck in the “show me it’s better” mind-set.
Oh, and the “IT controls the budget” mind-set. Ouch.
Now we have employees taking advantage of cloud services, smartphones, tablets and app stores to get their work done. Under pressure to produce quarterly results, these end users–from front-line managers to C-level execs–don’t care about the in-house ERP or CRM application, or IT’s official standards for PC or BlackBerry use. They’re ready to follow the Nike motto: Just do it.
This often leaves the CIO extremely vulnerable. The CIO whose conversation focuses on how things were done in the past, or who tries to discourage execs from toting their favorite tablet, will not be too popular.
Increasingly, successful CIOs slingshot around this conversation. Rather than offering defensive arguments about preserving the status quo, they pursue opportunities to use the latest technology to create competitive advantage.
Here are several ways to take a fresh approach to today’s technology trends:
What could be better than end users paying for their own devices? Maybe you can eliminate the budget line for mobile hardware by allowing users to connect to the company’s networks with their own smartphones.
Why not use the cloud? Instead of thinking “proprietary and protected,” think “accessible and available.” Enjoy the advantages of cloud-based data storage and delivery. Push vendors to provide security and reliability–they can do it.
When giving end users more control over technology, demand that they give back performance. Push users to tell IT what apps will make the organization more productive and successful. Set up a team to quickly respond to employee recommendations for apps the enterprise should use. And if employees don’t offer ideas, push them to do so. With empowerment comes responsibility.
Set up a team to push vendors to provide apps that will improve your company’s performance. And not just IT vendors. Customer-service vendors should provide apps with real-time data about calls, leads, feedback and performance. Supply-chain vendors should provide real-time data about order status, quality issues, complaints and performance.
IT is increasingly the core infrastructure of all companies. If that infrastructure looks like rails and highways in a world of runways and rocket launchpads, problems are inevitable.
But if CIOs embrace today’s cloud-based, always available, get-it-done-on-my-smartphone world, they are much more likely to beat the competition.
Adam Hartung is a consultant specializing in innovation and the author of the book Create Marketplace Disruption. Contact him at AdamHartung.com.
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