I recently heard Frank Gens, senior VP of research at IDC (a sister company to CIO.com’s publisher), discuss the results of a survey of line of business executives. The most interesting findings: Product innovation has moved to #2 from #4 as a priority of CEOs. IT “responsiveness and efficiency” is up to #4 from #7.
There’s a bright side and a dark side to these results. The bright side, according to Gens, is that business execs really get IT, and that there’s an increasing expectation from business leaders that technology will come through for them. The dark side is that most IT departments aren’t well positioned to deliver what business execs need because they aren’t far enough along in their deployment of a flexible, modular, service oriented architecture. Gens envisions a “train wreck” waiting to happen, as demand for IT-enabled innovation at the average company crashes headlong into that company’s inflexible legacy systems.
I don’t believe in silver bullets. But SOA, by enabling CIOs and business execs to see, together, how business processes are expressed by technology, as well as encouraging the development of components that can be reused to build new processes, promises to make IT more flexible, more efficient and more responsive to business needs (for more on this, see Integration’s New Strategy, by my colleague Chris Koch).
The essential point here is that your capacity for change is limited by your IT infrastructure. Staying competitive requires you to adapt. Not investing in infrastructure puts you at a competitive disadvantage. Just ask anyone who updates the kitchen appliances before he puts his house on the market. The challenge is justifying the investment in business terms.
How do you make the connection between an investment in IT infrastructure and your company’s capacity to innovate?