Jun 19, 2014

Back in 2003, as the IT industry was recovering from the excesses of the dot com boom/bust, the Harvard Business Review’s Editor-At-Large, Nicolas Carr published a paper titled IT doesn’t Matter, in which he claimed that “As information technology’s power and ubiquity has grown, its strategic importance has diminished.”

 

In 2004, Thomas Friedman of the New York Times published a national best seller entitled The World is Flat, which is a metaphor for viewing the world as a level playing field in terms of commerce where all competitors have an equal opportunity primarily due to the Internet.

In the 10 years since these ideas were published the world of information technology has changed dramatically. The world of commerce is no longer flat and IT is more strategic than ever before for businesses that want to grow and lead their competition. The macro trends that have changed the playing field in the past 10 years have been cloud, mobility, Big Data, and social networking. An even bigger trend ahead will be the Internet of Things that will extend information technology into every aspect of our lives.

Nicolas Carr advised companies to stay well back of the cutting edge and wait to invest in IT technology until standards and best practices solidify. The key to success for IT was not to “aggressively seek advantage but to manage costs and risks meticulously. He cited the wasteful use of data storage where Computerworld at that time estimated that 70% of the storage capacity for the typical windows network was wasted, and the majority of what was stored had little to do with making products or serving customers. There was truth in that condition 10 years ago, but by investing in technologies like virtualization, thin provisioning, object storage, and flash modules to eliminate the need to over provision for performance, IT has become more agile and responsive to the needs of the business.  While cloud was considered hype just a few years ago, the cloud in its many forms, private, public, hybrid, is transforming IT into a service model. IT leaders who embraced these changes have been able to do more with less and have proven their strategic value.

The lines of business have been also been transformed through the macro trends we cited above and are becoming more comfortable with IT’s new role.  Adrian Deluca, our CTO in Asia Pacific notes in a recent HDS Community postThe hitchhikers guide to Business Defined IT , that decades of exposure to implementing systems like ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) together with the consumerization of IT through the internet and mobile devices, and the impact of social networking has not only made them more knowledgeable, but empowered to envision its possibilities.  Redefining business processes, reaching new customers and sharing information between departments is now easier than ever before.  The line of business leaders are now helping to shape the technology strategy and IT has become a business innovator again, as opposed to just a support function.

Last week I met with the IT leaders of one of the largest Global Telco’s as well as one of the largest Global banks and the conversation was much different than one that I would have had 5 years ago. It was clearly more about business innovation. The conversation was less about products, and more about our strategic direction to support their Global requirements.

Cloud and Big Data are key enablers for business agility. Mobility is the key enabler for business productivity. Mobility goes beyond the ability to access applications and data on mobile devices for workforce mobility. It requires data mobility where data can be accessed where and when you need it, for any application, with a defined quality of service. It requires cloud mobility where the provisioning can be balanced between private and public cloud for agility and cost optimization. No matter where the content is created, stored, and accessed, inside the traditional data center or outside of the data center on mobile devices, edge devices or sensors, or a public cloud, IT must be responsible for the management, protection, security and governance of that data content. How IT enables mobility of the workforce, mobility of data, and the mobility of cloud will differentiate their business and provide a competitive advantage.

mobility.png

The world may appear to be flat in that everyone has access to information through the Internet and smart phones, but in fact the world has become even more multi-dimensional.  There are many more touch points to information and the commercial value of that information depends on how and where it can be accessed, stored, analyzed, and consumed for business value. Mobility across these many dimensions will be a key strategy for Business defined IT.