Dial Up Disruption With Emerging TechBy Samuel Greengard
Dial Up Disruption With Emerging Tech
One of the stark realities of the digital age is that IT is more than a collection of servers and computing systems. Radical advances across the digital technology spectrum—robotics, drones, 3D manufacturing, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), the internet of things (IoT), blockchain and artificial intelligence( AI), to name a few—have tilted the business and IT landscape in new and sometimes intriguing directions.
With the right mix of tools, "There's an ability to innovate and disrupt at an unparalleled rate," states Merim Becirovic, managing director for global core infrastructure, Cloud and Business Operations at Accenture.
For CIOs, today's environment represents both the best of times and the worst of times. Advanced emerging tools and technologies can generate cost savings, efficiency gains and, in a best-case scenario, entirely new products and services. This, in turn, can drive competitive gains and bottom-line results.
Yet, at the same time, attempting to select the right technologies and assemble them in a way that produces real-world results is daunting. "What used to be six months of technology advancement now takes place in days," says Dee Burger, global leader of digital practices at Capgemini. "Keeping up with things is extraordinarily difficult."
As a result, it's critical for organizations to construct an agile and flexible digital framework that supports experimentation, testing, innovation and technology advancement. Yet, at the same time, it's important for CIOs and other enterprise leaders to manage budgets and hedge their bets. Promising technologies frequently fizzle or emerge in a way that pundits didn't originally envision.
In addition, the competitive dynamics of the marketplace produce constant change. "New ideas and new ways to apply technology are flowing faster than ever," Burger points out. "An organization must have a framework in place to deal with digital technologies."
Supporting New Digital Technologies
For CIOs, the question isn't whether to deploy emerging digital technologies, but how to adopt a combination of tools and leverage their power. In a best-case scenario, the sum of these technologies can produce gains greater than the individual parts. But success requires more than a piecemeal or ad hoc approach.
"The challenge for today's CIO is, How do you position your organization to be a digital organization that delivers now and in the future," Accenture's Becirovic explains. "We are shifting to a platform economy that requires a highly flexible, scalable and agile IT infrastructure. An organization must be able to support new and changing directions in digital technology."
From an IT perspective, he says, this means virtualizing systems and migrating to the public cloud, where it's possible to plug in services and software in near real time. It also requires an emphasis on software-defined everything.
However, designing a digital framework that supports a mélange of technologies also requires a different way of thinking. Input from line-of-business (LoB) executives is imperative, an eye on tech innovation is paramount, and ensuring that the organization has the skill sets to deploy specific systems and technologies is vital. Along the way, a roadmap that addresses an organization's opportunities and value points is key, Becirovic says.
Dial Up Disruption With Emerging Tech
On a practical level, Capgemini's Burger says the CIOs and LoB leaders must keep their fingers on the pulse of technology advancements. In the digital age, CIO increasingly stands for chief integration officer.
"Awareness of opportunities is crucial," he says, adding that It's also important to filter and vet ideas for new products and services based on how various technologies mature. "There is no shortage of amazing technologies and great ideas. It's about connecting all the pieces to produce something truly innovative."
Finally, an organization must have discipline to make tough choices, learn from mistakes and failures, and then move forward. "The difference between winners and losers is often about seeing around the corners," Burger explains.
Changing Workflows and Business Processes
The need to embrace emerging digital technologies has never been greater. For example, various components of AI—including voice and speech recognition, image processing, analytics and deep learning—are redefining business processes, customer touchpoints and more.
The IoT is streaming into businesses and homes and changing workflows, behavior and consumer sensibilities. Meanwhile, apps increasingly tap augmented reality, manufacturers are producing prototypes and parts using 3D printing, and businesses are turning to robots and drones for a variety of tasks.
Although every industry and company situation is different, the common denominator is a need to construct a framework that's responsive to digital business requirements. Burger says that CIOs must establish a framework that supports digital innovation and emerging tech. Key pieces of the puzzle often include a steering committee, cross-functional business and technology teams, an open innovation framework, an internal innovation lab, and the use of A/B testing. The goal, he says, is to experiment, move forward rapidly and spot real-world opportunities.
Accenture's Becirovic says that it's also important to adjust and adapt at a moment's notice. For example, he points to blockchain as an example of a technology that could go in radically different directions and create substantially different outcomes.
"It's becoming apparent that blockchain has many uses that extend beyond the financial arena," he point out. "In the future, it may have a role in protecting medical records and other assets." Thus, it's important to track its overall trajectory, consider partnerships and affiliations, and understand emerging API frameworks. Overall, "There's a need to understand ecosystems," he says.
In the end, Becirovic says that CIOs must think about the enterprise and their role in a different way. Instead of adopting the traditional IT approach that revolves around controlling and managing technology resources, IT leaders need to understand how digital technologies fit together, track their progress, and understand how others—including disruptors—are using them to their advantage.
In addition, CIOs must ensure the enterprise has the skill sets to harness these technologies. They also must work with LoB leaders to identify a vision, establish a strategy and build out systems that deliver clear benefits.
"CIOs who assemble the pieces the right way separate themselves and their companies from the rest of the pack," Becirovic explains. "They aren't driven by technology outcomes; they are driven by business outcomes."