A look back on 2010, and a view forward to 2011

New Year 2011 pushing 2010 downAt this time of year there are many articles and posts that provide insightful, amusing and thought provoking summaries of the year nearly completed.  The fact that I have read a number of excellent reviews of 2010 has helpfully discouraged me from trying to compete.  That said I cannot resist some personal observations on how I experienced 2010.

2010 was the year where we went from talking about the potential of cloud computing to seeing that future state take shape in the market.  Regardless of your position on solution maturity I doubt many would argue that cloud computing has not arrived and has had no impact on corporate IT strategy.  However, it is not cloud computing that stands as my key inflection point in 2010; that is reserved for the moment that the penny dropped for me on the closely related force of IT consumerisation.

My moment of clarity arrived during Fujitsu’s VISIT 2010 event held in Munich during November.  I’d just walked around the exhibition hall with three client CIOs and moved through the whole range of Fujitsu activities from our endpoint products to our server and storage technologies to cloud computing offerings, our extensive partner ecosystem, right through to our research activities under the strategic intent of human centric computing to enable an intelligent networked society.

I was asked by one of the CIOs which of the areas we’d just seen were having the most impact on my internal IT strategy; after some thought and the sound of a penny dropping I replied none of those as such but rather the change in expectations of my IT delivery.   Two of the CIOs looked at me as if I were slightly deranged whilst (luckily!) the third nodded and agreed with me.  Over a coffee we convinced ourselves that the key challenge is not technology aspects such as device proliferation, or the shadow IT landscape funded by credit cards, nor even social media finding a way into the enterprise.  We decided that the key disruptor is actually the one of expecting choice and an increasing demand to apply the market dynamics of the consumer marketplace to the corporate world.  This brings with it an expectation that using corporate IT should be “pleasurable”, “exciting”, “immediate” and dare I say “cool”; a customer experience as opposed to user experience.

At the start of the year many people including me were using the term “Generation Y” to encapsulate a set of behaviours and expectations that we asserted were generational.  Today I still argue that the characteristics attributed to Generation Y exist but now believe that that many of them are not restricted to a given generation.   Indeed if I look at my weekly barometer of demand (see my earlier post about IT consumerisation) I know enough of the names in my mailbox demanding iPad connectivity, Android access to corporate systems, adoption of services like DropBox, access to social media sites to know that the majority are actually Baby Boomers or Generation X.

The tension created the moment you attempt to reflect consumer arena expectations and demands in your corporate IT strategy is perplexing.  You rapidly find yourself becoming at best the voice of caution, at worst the voice listing all the reasons why not, despite the benefit that could accrue to the organisation.  Balancing risk against benefit is a key part of the CIO role but unsurprisingly I find the role much more rewarding when able to operate as the Chief Innovation Officer.  There is a strong temptation in the face of escalating demand for which you lack funding, quite apart from the information assurance implications or indeed those relating to the operational cost management, to simply say “no, because” and forget all of your consultative customer centric training in how to respond to challenging demands!

I think 2011 is going to be a challenging year for CIOs as I don’t think the economic climate has suppressed the demand for technology solutions arising from the consumer sector centric expectations.  Those of us fortunate to be in CIO roles are certainly not going to be bored. I say fortunate as with those challenges come change and if we don’t like change then IT is the wrong career choice!  So have a good rest over the festive period and recharge those batteries – 2011 is going to be interesting.

Image credit: © VBar – Fotolia.com.

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