Fast-changing Enterprise-From Industrial to an Information-based Society

Lee Congdon, CIO, Red Hat | Thursday, 07 July 2016, 09:00 IST

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As CIO of Red Hat, Lee Congdon offers four lessons for leading an IT organization and steering technology decision-making for a fast-changing enterprise. As IT organizations continue to evolve in order to meet the demands of our internal customers and our external customers, it is essential that we take leadership in setting the roadmap for technology in our enterprises. This is increasingly a shared responsibility with our internal business partners. While we evolve, we must keep in mind that the enterprise technology landscape is changing rapidly, even as we are developing the near-term and forward-looking plans for our organizations. This changing landscape includes how our society uses technology, how we think about the work IT does, how our customers are using our technology, and how we (and the business) set the pace for continuing change within our organizations.

Shifting from industrial to information-based thinking

It is clear that we are making the transition from an industrial society toward an information-based society. An increasing percentage of the value of products and services is their information content. As a result, IT and the business must now be tightly integrated and expect that technology will be embedded in everything we do. We need technology to power the video meeting tool we use, the shared document we create during the meeting, the calendar we use to set follow-up meetings, and the channels we use to communicate with associates. Outside the office, we use GPS rather than printed maps to get us where we need to go, use mobile devices to determine our social interactions, and our home appliances are technology-enabled and can be adjusted with an app. Differentiated products and services will be based on the information underlying these types of transactions, as well as very large amounts of data flowing from a wide range of devices, many of them mobile. Everyone and everything will be connected most of the time. As one consequence, every enterprise will become an information enterprise to a much larger degree.

Technology is about more than process automation

Historically, IT was used to digitize business processes. Many of those – payroll, order fulfillment, invoicing and collections – have become stable and reliable. Given the shift to an information-based thinking mentioned above, the new reality is that we need to be flexible and agile in the services we offer our customers. However, even as we implement new mobile solutions, for example, we must be mindful of paying down “technology debt” for our stable and reliable systems and be thoughtful about how we adapt those systems to meet our customer’s growing needs. We must plan to move those legacy systems to modern environments and provide access to the data within. We must integrate the capabilities of batch systems into a real time world. We must consider how we can help our customers drive decision-making with data. We need to identify new, technology-enabled business opportunities. If we remain solely in the process automation space rather than assuming a business partnership role, or we allow our legacy systems to hold us back, we may be perceived as out-of-touch with the needs of the business.

Fundamental shift – how our internal customers use technology to deliver in their roles

Gone are the days when IT handed out tools and users adopted those tools without question or commentary. Increasingly, we all have access to our own devices and technology solutions. In order to move forward and show business value, IT organizations must offer a blend of corporate solutions delivered on corporate-controlled devices and associates’ own solutions and devices they have adopted in their non-work lives. Five years ago, many organizations still issued corporate mobile devices and senior leaders carried at least one personal device and one corporate-owned device. Now, the technology adoption process is more user-driven and the lines between personal and corporate devices and systems are fading. That has significant implications for usability, information security, and data protection. The lines between personal and professional personas are also fading – what you do in social media reflects on you and your enterprise. The larger ramifications of these blurred lines are only starting to become clear.

The pace of change is accelerating – and we must lead

As trusted partners to the business, IT leaders should be helping set the pace of technology change and monitoring progress. In almost every enterprise, the pace is not fast enough. If our business leaders are reluctant to move forward, we must establish the proper pace. Given our unique engagement and deep understanding of how most of our enterprises work, IT should take a leadership position in setting expectations and ensuring that the enterprise understands the imperative to change quickly.

These four areas describe some of our biggest challenges and our greatest opportunities as IT leaders. If we continue to transition away from order-taking, process-driven roles and into trusted business partner relationships, we can adapt to the shifts in our environments and lead our enterprises as they continue evolving to meet our
customers’ needs.