Identifying Key Trends
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Futurist James Canton foresees the CIO motivating the rest of the organization, including the CEO and the board, to change.
How does Trend Trakker work?
It's basically an online search engine and data mining service to identify aggregate trend data from news stories across the Internet. We use it to build a database of key trends, broken into about 10 different areas: globalization, workforce, climate change, technology.
Let me give you an example of how we use it.
In two separate projects, for Hewlett-Packard and General Electric Worldwide, we were asked to identify a variety of key trends--technology trends and overall trends--that were important to their markets and their customers between now and 2015.
With GE, healthcare is a big area. We identified about five key emerging areas related to things such as pandemic control and emerging healthcare utilization. One of the trend areas, the growth of megacities by the year 2015, is going to be very critical to [GE's] ability to manage energy and healthcare services.
That surfaced through Trend Trakker identifying an aggregate number of weighted stories related to challenges of companies, geographies and nations in dealing with emerging population and emerging infrastructure.
Another simple example of Trend Tracker was the large number of articles we found related to clean and green products. There was clearly a consumer shift in buying toward those products.
We were able to map that across different geographic areas where consumer's interest was growing. And we factored that into our report to Hewlett-Packard for some of their strategic planning.
Is this all part of what you call "future readiness?"
Future readiness is what I'd like every CIO to be able to embrace.
Future readiness is the capacity to be able to better predict the future and to shape the future. It means an organization is not just looking at today but engaging customers, partners and suppliers in what they'll need over the longer term, and investing in the longer term.
If there's one area I'd like CIOs to really embrace it would be developing more of a predictable awareness about how their industry is changing, how their organization is changing, how their customers are changing in the near future. CIOs need to prepare today for the changes that are emerging one, two, three, four, five years away. The cycles of innovation and development are coming very quickly.
If all CIOs were to make looking at the future part of a monthly review with their direct reports, it would help them better compete and better serve their customers. I think that would be a worthwhile pursuit.
It's getting to be a pretty interesting time to be a CIO.
It's a new era for CIOs. I think more and more of the leadership mantle is going to be passed to the CIO. The expectation is that the CIO is going to find new customers, find new markets, and open up new competitive opportunities through leveraging innovations.
But how? There are still a lot of CIOs who have a hard time getting into the boardroom. And companies continue to have a hard time aligning business and technology.
CIOs need to be smarter.
How many CIOs produce plans that show where future competitive value is, or show where customers' needs could be fulfilled, or show what new products and services could penetrate a market, or how a new IT infrastructure could create an opportunity?
Not as many as there should be.
There's still a lot of room for the kind of innovation where a CIO can have a bold vision and can go ahead and find folks in or around the ecosystem to help capitalize and invest in building it. There's room for CIOs to step up and, I think, propose bolder ideas that will produce competitive value.