Stereotypes – Shaken and Stirred?

Last week I was invited to talk at a D Group event on the topic of Generation Y.  The discussion after my monologue was wide ranging and extremely interesting, particularly as it had a business leader perspective rather than a technology orientation. One element of my material that generated a deal of debate was a demographic analysis that I had prepared on ten months worth of my “why can’t I?” email collection. I’ve mentioned this weekly collation of incoming requests and challenges from my user base and how I use it as an insightful barometer of technology demand in an earlier post.  Spookily, the demand alignment to demographic stereotypes is pretty much what you might expect, for example demand for Android based tablets receiving corporate email and other services coming from Generation Y, but the same services for Apple iPhones/iPads coming from Generation X.   An interesting data point for me was that the demand for Microsoft Windows based tablets to be enabled for corporate services was almost entirely from Baby-Boomers which has some interesting implications perhaps for the Nokia/Microsoft link up announced today.  The only other requests overwhelmingly dominated by one demographic related to self selection of of smartphone or computer for use in corporate context; 80% of those requests were from Generation Y.   This is interesting as, just as in many other companies, Generation Y is a minority group within our population but that will change over the coming decade and it signals an emerging demand loud and clear (I’ll discuss the way I meet the demand on social media and also on personal smartphone use in a future post).

The term emerging also figured prominently as I prepared some material to present at the quarterly Fujitsu Executive Discussion Evening event that we provide for our customers.  The topic of the evening was innovation at the sharp end and some event materials may be found on the i-CIO website, including videos taken of speakers and attendees on the night.

I opened my presentation using an infographic which shows the most efficient nations at turning R&D spend into patents submitted in 2008 together with the raw numbers submitted on a world map.  As you view the map from west to east the efficiency dramatically rises until you find that South Korea is massively more efficient than any other country and in the same total number band as the USA and Japan. The United States does relatively poorly on the efficiency measure, certainly not what you might expect for the world’s largest economy; the UK has the same efficiency rating.  Now I would love to see the data repeated for 2009 and 2010 but I think we can probably safely assume that that rise of the countries like China, India and South Korea will not have slowed.

Perhaps what is interesting is to link the demographic perspective from my data set to the population trends in the emerging economic super-powers, and to the efficiency indicated by the infographic, to form a view on the location and drivers for future innovation.  Clearly filing patents is not the same as being certain that the invention will lead to a business innovation, i.e. a change in how we do something in either consumer or corporate space that generates business benefit and ultimately money.  However, it does give pause for though.  At the Intellect Annual Regent Conference last week Mike Lynch (the founder and CEO of Autonomy) gave an excellent interview (as reported by Nick Heath on Silicon.com) in which he said that the majority of start-ups in Silicon Valley today were being established by South Koreans and that, in his view, we need to attract the “uber-talented” to set up their companies in Britain to create jobs and innovation profit engines in our economy.  At the time I was surprised by the reference to South Korea – a day later I saw the infographic discussed above and a penny dropped for me!

It seems that the last a week or so proved some stereotypes to be correct for me but also shook up some of my preconceptions and thinking. All in all, that must have been a jolly good week!

Image credit: © nikkytok – Fotolia.com

[Updated 31 August 2011 to include David's presentation slides]

Assessing IT performance

Mind the GapIt is interesting how sometimes a collection of apparently random events, articles or reports gel in your mind.  We are just in the process of finalising our revised internal IT roadmap for the next three years, with a more specific focus on what exactly we will be focusing on over the next two years and the programme portfolio for the first year.  So perhaps I was subconsciously more receptive that normal to registering content around maximising the value my team delivers to my company, how you might define high performing IT units (and their leaders!) and how that relates to the frequent use of the word “innovation” across business and IT trade press.  Regardless, I alighted upon an excellent report that was recently published by Accenture entitled “Mind The Gap“, providing insights from their third annual global research into high performance IT. A good deal of the content in this report resonated with me, in relation to my CIO role but also to conversations I’ve been having with fellow CIOs, including some of our clients.

The headline in the Computer Weekly article discussing the research was “Top UK CIOs admit their IT is behind the times”.  This was drawn from the fact that in the UK 90% of the CIOs interviewed for the research said that their systems were not sufficiently flexible whereas 67% took the same view elsewhere in the world.  Personally I don’t think that gap is necessarily real and, if pushed, would probably argue that the UK respondents may perhaps have been more brutally honest.  One gap that is clearly apparent from the research is that the gulf between the highest performers and the others is widening from one year to the next.  Now, no CIO wants to be towards the back of the pack so that certainly got my attention and prompted me to download the full report – and I’d recommend that you do too as is very interesting reading.

In the Accenture model they measure IT performance across three primary areas: IT Execution; IT Agility; and IT Innovation.  I thought these were excellent prompts for me in reviewing my strategy and the programme portfolio we are planning to execute.  Now we all have our trials and tribulations lurking within our deployed technology base and I’m not about to bore you with a self-pitying whine on my challenges. However, legacy system maintenance and refresh challenges aside, what I did was to compare what Accenture define as attributes of high performance IT to our plans, generating a checkpoint and some insights.  In summary our plans around IT Execution stood up to scrutiny given our funding constraints (I cannot help myself from complaining!), I found some improvements points in relation to IT Agility and, somewhat depressingly, I found us reverting to a technology-centric perspective truism on IT Innovation and not business value articulation.  It was certainly a worthwhile afternoon of reflection and approach review; and I’m not saying that to be a nice Accenture alumni.

Whilst on the topic of innovation, I recently read an excellent post by Gary Hamel on his Wall Street Journal blog, entitled “Who’s Really Innovative?” Unsurprisingly, given the author, this was an entertaining and insightful article which discussed the questions many of us have grappled with – what is innovative and, whatever it is, how would I embed the generating behaviours into my company DNA?  I need to think through which of his five types of innovators relate to my company and whether we have multiple in play.   It was certainly food for thought as Fujitsu are focusing one of our Executive Discussion Evenings next February on the question “Innovation at the sharp end: how can organisations turn good ideas into bottom-line growth”.  I’ll be on stage, sharing my views on the topic, along with Matt Kingdon (CEO at !Whatif?) and Marion King (CEO at Vocalink).  Find more details of how to request a seat at Fujitsu’s Executive Discussion Evening on 9 February 2011.

Image credit: © QQ7 – Fotolia.com