Transformation by any other name?

The world of IT is often a tribal one where people frequently have strongly held views which they love to outline on competing technologies, product vendors, service providers and anything else you care to mention.  There are some subjects which can always be relied upon to spark the euphemistic “free and frank exchange of views”.  So it was no surprise recently when I found myself in a group of CIOs with decades of experience (and the associated scars!) that the topic of IT transformation proved somewhat provocative.

The discussion started with the usual tussle over defining the term and distinguishing a technology upgrade/deployment from a business change enabled by technology programme.  The group reassuringly quickly reached agreement that the term implied an undue focus on technology.  The group preference was for the term “IT enabled business transformation”.  There was also rapid agreement on the key characteristics conveyed by that term.  These included the delivery of material business benefits gained by a tightly managed and closely measured technology enabled process change which is implemented with a clear focus on the people change requirements.

However, the debate restarted when it was suggested that the term “digital transformation” was a far better label.   The discussion also covered the term “two speed IT function” used by some analysts or “bimodal IT” as coined by Gartner to recognise the digital age facets.  All agreed that the digital age was driving a far higher focus on people within technology deployments, both in terms of the expectations created by consumerisation of IT services and the technical competence of the people consuming them.

I quite like the concept of “bimodal IT” as I do think it helps describe the duality corporate IT functions now face, namely the incessant demand for innovation at speed balanced against need to ensure appropriate data security and integrity.  We certainly must retain the disciplines of a well-defined, managed and executed business transformation enabled by technology painfully learned over many decades!  However, we do need to find risk managed ways to combine those virtues with that of rapid development, deployment and evolution of products and services.  The mantra of “measure carefully and if you are going to fail, fail early” is a good one in my view.

The importance of ensuring that the delivery remains current, valuable and aligned to requirements is not new.  However, what is new is the speed at which these programmes are now expected to deliver and so the imperative of ensuring relevance becomes more key.  That said if you leverage the right communication tools it is possible to address that requirement by harnessing the power of the population your delivery is to serve.  Doing so requires a high level of agility in every aspect of the transformation programme not to mention in its senior management sponsors.

It has always been tempting for people to label IT initiatives as transformational.  Arguably the inherent characteristics of what is truly an IT transformation programme have not changed over the years.  However, it seems very clear that some of those characteristics have evolved and gained importance in the digital age.  The people engagement imperative has become unavoidable and truly central in every sense.  This collaboration expectation combines with the relentlessly increasing pace at which delivery is demanded to create a new sense of excitement.  Successfully delivering an IT enabled business transformation programme has never been easy and we continue to improve our ability to get them right.

I think using the term digital transformation is helpful.  I much prefer it to IT transformation and it is less cumbersome than the more wordy IT enabled business transformation.  I think the word digital encapsulates business, information and technology.  It recognises for me that it is increasingly hard to distinguish between the “business” and the “IT” in the digital age.

This post was previously published on the Business Value Exchange.

D For Device? Or Data? Or Both?

I think most people would agree that the blurring of the boundary between our working and personal lives is accelerating.  I know from many discussions that some people are more comfortable with that trend than others.  Typically those yet to see their 35th birthday seem to be mostly supportive, those that have gone past that milestone tend to be at best more sceptical at the value proposition.  There are countless case studies on highly successful companies that demonstrate their success is linked in some way to their employees having a personal commitment and deep affinity to the corporate objectives. However, recently I have read a few reports which argued that part of building that alignment can be enabled by removing the distinction between corporate devices and personal devices.  They argue that in some way this step impacts on the psyche of the employees making work more personal and so building a stronger sense of ownership.  Typically the term used in this context is Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) although there is a variant which has proponents where the employee is enabled to select device of choice from a defined catalogue, namely Choose Your Own Device (CYOD).  The latter is intended to mitigate perceived risks associated with the operating model of BYOD and its implicit wide range of device options.

BYOD Figure shutterstock_156558971

I must confess to have some doubts on the impact ascribed to BYOD in the context of employee empowerment.  I certainly accept that it can reduce operating expenses and decrease the level of corporate investment in enabling technology.  I have been involved in defining and deploying a BYOD strategy twice thus far in my career.  I can point to the financial benefits arising from trading convenient access to selected corporate data stores from employee’s smartphone for the cost of providing a corporate variant.  However, the more I talked to CIOs who have deployed BYOD schemes and some of their highly enthused employees I have heard the empowerment message coming through loud and clear.  A very confident “millennial” enthusiast for BYOD pointed out to me that she saw her smartphone and tablet as being in many ways an extension of her personality.  The growth of highly personalised wearable devices which often have a key link to the smartphone of choice is only going to make this blurred boundary more challenging.   It seems likely that intelligent watch is going to become mainstream particularly now with the arrival of the Apple Watch.  People are not likely to distinguish between their personal and corporate watch.  They will want the benefits from their device of choice in the workplace both in personal and corporate terms.

However, accepting that engagement can be driven upward by a BYOD scheme it is very clear that the most important “D” in that context is not the “device” but rather the “data”.
Information assurance and how the corporate data set is protected is undoubtedly the key to unlock BYOD deployment and the promise of more engaged, committed and enabled employees.  Data Security shutterstock_104783210 (2)If you cannot securely manage access to the corporate data employees need or want or both to access from their own device then the scope of the BYOD deployment is going to be constrained and most likely disappoint the user community.  We can all identify sectors where this constraint is in place.  Indeed it is clearly shown when you look at BYOD adoption by industry sector analysis that there are sectors where there are specific restrictions driven by information assurance policies.

I recently read (in a Forrester report I think) that by 2017 over 50% of private sector organizations will no longer provide devices to their employees.  This same report highlighted that the majority of IT decision makers believe they would be at a competitive disadvantage if they do not embrace BYOD.   A quick look via the internet search engine of your choice will provide a great deal of material on how to define and deploy a BYOD policy.

There are some great case studies available from the early adopters with  interesting insights including one that stuck in my memory of a company whose network performance was crippled as the BYOD was so successful and their policy did not limit the number of devices each employee could bring to the party.   The vast majority of what I have read focuses on the criticality of managing access to the corporate data and so the associated risk.  So you have the classic compromise situation whereby the drive from employees for an expansive BYOD deployment needs to be balanced with a securely managed data access model.  If these two aspects can be balanced then there is undoubtedly huge value in what can be derived from embracing BYOD.  Indeed many would argue that approaching corporate IT from the “IT consumerisation” user perspective can lead to valuable innovation of the corporate data security model.  A good case for  this line of argument is made by Stacey Leidwinger in her blog post entitled “Embracing Employee Empowerment“.

At the heart of this debate are what might be termed two absolute truths.  Employees that are frustrated and thwarted by restrictive technology will generally find a way around those obstacles or at the very least introduce risk by trying to do so.  At the same time in the digital age it is clear that security of corporate data must not constrain user enablement.    I think it is well recognised today that King Canute like IT departments that attempt to resist the oncoming tide of end user expectations are going to find themselves drowning under a wave of “Shadow IT” challenges.  They may well find that crucially in so doing they have driven a range of key business risks subterranean too.

Part of this post has previously been published on the Business Value Exchange.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock.

If the future is here today, what will shape tomorrow?

“How will the digital world change the nature of work by  2020?” was the question posed for a recent webcast I joined.  The debate was interesting, at times heated and very wide ranging. At the risk of irritating everyone else in the debate I suggested that first the question needed to be reworded.  I think the question should have read more along the lines of “How has the digital world already changed the nature of work today and where will it have reached by 2020?”

The future of work has become an increasingly high profile topic over recent months.  The approach taken in the various articles and posts has been varied with some focusing on the technology solutions whilst others have taken a more holistic societal perspective.  Regardless it is clear that we have already seen fundamental changes enabled by technology arrive in the workplace today and that over the coming years we will see what is fringe activity today become mainstream tomorrow.  Indeed we have already seen multiple waves of workplace change impact an increasing number of companies quite apart from the debate you could have around social business.  An excellent read on this topic is a book called “The Digital Workplace”  by Paul Miller that has recently been published.  Paul has also launched an organisation called the Digital Workplace Forum which is essentially a diverse community of global corporations collaborating to understand the current baseline, share the art of the possible today and jointly evolve the future opportunities.

Earlier this year I chaired a two day consultation event entitled “The Future of Work”.  The consultation was organised by an organisation called St George’s House and was one of their series of such events on social and ethical themes.  The consultations are held in unique surroundings at Windsor Castle and operated to an ethos that sees highly diverse groups of people rapidly bond into collaborative and effective discussion groups.  This particular group was diverse in every respect  bringing representatives of public and private sector and the debate was stimulating, wide-ranging and at times a challenge for me to keep on topic.  You can find the report entitled simply “The Future Of Work” on the St George’s House website.   I think a fair overall summation would be that everyone in the group recognised that the workplace was rapidly changing, that the pace of change was only going to accelerate and that there were a large number of interconnected driving and enabling technology factors.

In the months after the event I have increasingly read about a technology that we did not discuss in much detail during the consultation called 3D printing.  The impact of 3D printing on the future of industry is huge.  It is a technique for rapidly prototyping and manufacturing that is also sometimes known as additive manufacturing.  It involves creating a solid object by layering a material such as liquid plastic to a specified pattern, ie “printing”.  The pattern is created as a detailed 3D file and can be visualised prior to initiating the manufacture. Examples of what can be created range from hearing aids to replica models to prosthetic limbs to components for jet engines to dresses through to chocolate confectionary.  The implications of being able to create such complex, diverse and customised output are huge and some are talking about 3D printing as being the third industrial revolution.  A recent great piece on this theme can be found in The Economist article entitled “A Third Industrial Revolution”.  I also really like an article in Wired magazine entitled “Future Of Stuff: Vending Machines That Prints in 3D”.

The more I read about 3D printing the more it brings home that the drivers of change in the workplace of tomorrow are not restricted to the digital technologies that immediately tend to spring to mind.  I think we can regard much of the technology solutions often described as innovative as being increasing established and effectively old news where arguably it is all about implementation of solutions that the early adopters have already proven.  What is exciting is seeing clever innovative ideas evolve through the R&D stage, survive the hype stage and become implemented new solutions delivering value, business and/or societal. Clearly identifying the next new groundbreaking initiative early (presuming that like me you lack what is required to be the inventor!) and understanding how to derive value from it is the key.

Innovation in a tea shop, whatever next?

In recent weeks, I’ve seen this quote crop up in several places:

“US Bureau of Labor Statistics states that 50% of the jobs we will have over the next six years have not yet been created.”

I haven’t seen the original source, but it certain made me stop and think.  And, whilst pondering that thought, I came across an excellent article by John Lamb talking about the 60th anniversary of business computing in the UK, in a tea shop of all places.

The article caught my attention as the company that deployed that computer ended up being part of ICL which of course became part of Fujitsu Group – i.e. it’s part of my corporate history. The quote certainly resonates when you think about how many of our  jobs can be attributed indirectly to the implementation of the LEO (Lyons Electronic Office) in November 1951 at the London head office of J Lyons & Co.    The team including John Pinkerton and David Caminer brought LEO in to existence and its first job was to calculate the Lyons weekly bakery distribution run.  I would argue that David Caminer became Britain’s first Systems Analyst – and how many of those roles or the various modern variants are there in the business world today?  Well, to look at it another way, I’ve just seen a tweet suggesting that in India there is an estimated 2.5m people working directly or indirectly in the IT industry. That may be aA small number compared to the total population but it’s hugely significant in the wealth creation contribution to that economy.

Of course it would be a wonderful talent to foresee the importance of events like the LEO deployment as they happen rather than in retrospect.  I’m not claiming to be that visionary but I do think it is clear we are genuinely living through an inflection point in how information technology enables and drives our world.  If we look at the developed world, information technology is pervasive in our daily lives with smartphones, laptops, tablets, internet connected televisions, games consoles, etc. – and a huge infrastructure to support their use.  6 of the top 10 in Interbrand’s 2011 global brand table are technology companies. I think we would all agree that our world has become inescapably and increasingly pervasively digital.

I think we can see a potential advancement that may become as significant as the LEO in the today’s supercomputering arena.  The potential implications of the raw computing power of the Fujitsu K Supercomputer (the most powerful computer in the world today), are immense and fundamental to how our digital world is evolving.  I will return to this topic in my next blog post to outline my case for this bold assertion!

Clearly LEO was just one key milestone in the dawning of this computing age – we should also remember the world’s first computers at Bletchley Park (indeed, Ian Mitchell recently wrote about remembering the work of the Bletchley Park pioneers).   Key innovations tend not to be isolated to single events and it is true that the LEO came to life because of the team’s research visits to the USA where they met people working on the ENIAC (US Army Ballistics computer) and on returning to the UK they supported the work carried out at Cambridge University on the EDSAC.   Innovation is an important aspect of our world that needs to be nurtured, respected and funded, because the other way of looking at that US Department of Labor quote, is to ask which jobs will not be around in six years’ time?

In the current economic climate it is all too easy to become short-sighted and cull initiatives that lead to innovations that enable revenue and profit of the future.  I would dearly love to have my place in a key milestone innovation that is recognised in the future, probably unlikely but not impossible. So think forwards, act to create the future; what will be your LEO story?

Innovation: within companies and on a global scale

Recently I had the privilege of sitting on the panel for the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) “Business Leaders of Tomorrow” award.  This was organised by the TSB’s Knowledge Transfer Partnerships and was a fantastic day spent talking with 11 high-achieving young business leaders operating in a wide range of sectors and roles.  It was inspiring to hear how they had demonstrated leadership and created real value for their employers from the initiatives they’d led.  I clearly cannot talk about the individuals that the panel decided should win an award (at least not until their names are in the public domain in the autumn); however you can get a good sense from the 2010 winners.

What resonated with me is that these people were talking about innovating within in their companies and yet none of the fell into the trap of talking about IT which is so tempting a vice in the technology sector.  I have a ton of opinion on this particular topic as previous blog posts have shown but actually I found a really succinct and articulate exposition of what I was planning to discuss in a fellow CTO’s blog as Andy Mullholland at Capgemini wrote about how the CIO is trapped between the CEO’s desire for innovation and the CFO’s need for compliance.

Having decided not to duplicate a well argued blog post I’d like to bring your attention to another recent publication: INSEAD’s Global Innovation Index (GII).  This is an annual report measuring countries/economies worldwide in terms of their capabilities to innovate and the results they derive.  The report looks at the “input” aspects which are the capabilities a country needs in place to enable innovation to take place collated in five categories:

  • Institutions
  • Human capital and research
  • Infrastructure
  • Market sophistication
  • Business sophistication

It also then looks at the “output” dimension which is evidence that innovation has taken place and that value has been created. This dimension is collated into two categories (with a number of sub-grouping for sensible granularity):

  • Scientific outputs
  • Creative outputs

Finally an index is created from the ratio of each dimension to give a view on the efficiency with which innovation is executed, termed the Innovation Efficiency Index.

What I found surprising is which countries are most highly ranked against the “input” and “output” dimensions and then the Global Innovation Efficiency Index.  A number of countries that I expected to be leading lights in the Innovation Efficiency Index were missing from the top ten, although it was extremely pleasing to see the UK there in tenth spot (just behind the US in seventh).

  1. Switzerland
  2. Sweden
  3. Singapore
  4. Hong Kong (SAR, China)
  5. Finland
  6. Denmark
  7. US
  8. Canada
  9. Netherlands
  10. UK

The report has a very good executive summary that makes very interesting reading, as does the full report. Europe notches up a cool 6 out of the top 10 countries (although the Nordic region has a very impressive 3 countries in the top 10 and 5 in the top 18!) and the report presents a number of different perspectives on the analysis as clearly understanding why a country or region is so ranked is key.

What I particularly liked about this report (over and above the depth and balance of the analysis) were the additional “analytical chapters” where the authors recognise that the GII model does not necessarily capture exactly the innovation capabilities and can miss certain aspects.  Three chapters that particularly caught my eye were concerned with:

  • Making cities smart and sustainable
  • The global footprint of innovation
  • Accounting for creativity in innovation: what we should be measuring and related difficulties

These are topics of great interest to me and I’ll be reading them carefully over the coming week or so, hopefully to return to in a future blog post.

Chief Ixxxxxx Officer – which are you?

I recently wrote about an opportunity to examine the role of a CIO: how a workshop with some students from ESSEC Business School had given me a welcome opportunity to think about my role wearing my CIO hat and its direction of travel.  This introspection had also been partly triggered in the days prior to the workshop  by my reading an thought provoking piece by R “Ray” Wang of Constellation Research entitled “The Four Personas of the Next Generation CIO”. I particularly liked his argument that the top CIOs will need to seamlessly integrate four personas to be high performers, namely Chief Integration Officer, Chief Infrastructure Officer, Chief Intelligence Officer and Chief Innovation Officer; that is a whole lot of chiefs!  The more I thought about his argument, the more it resonated and, somewhat annoyingly, I found it a far more elegant and succinct way of summing up the differing perspectives I had been referencing when presenting on the challenges facing CIOs today.  If you are a CIO, I suggest you need to read this material and, if you are an aspiring CIO, then doubly so.  The paper is restricted access but I also found that Ray has also posted his thinking to the Harvard Business Review Blogs and there is a neat graphic to boot:

Not all CIOs will attempt to operate all four personas solo and will look to supplement with their team members as suggested in the HBR blog post. However, this is exactly what I have been doing over the last 12 months and this simple model is actually extremely powerful when you map onto it activities, successes and failures.  I have started shamelessly referencing this model when discussing the CIO role and the challenges to help ensure I retain a balance. Partly for fun and partly as it is that time of year in Fujitsu for annual performance reviews I decided to map where I have allocated my time over the last six months by a quick/dirty review of my diary:

Now I can post-rationalize the time allocation along with the best of you.  I can give you all manner of coherent (in my mind at least) arguments for why my time has been so externally focused in the business rather than technologist mode and why when in technologist mode I have been focused on the integration space.  However, the value is in the self-review process of analysing and plotting the time allocation. What would be especially interesting is to plot in which quadrant my wins and my disappointments fall over the same period (and indeed I will be doing just that as preparation for my review, should my boss be reading!).

What this line of thought has confirmed for me is that I will be publishing an “annual report” for my function that will review our performance against objectives in the financial year just closed and set out our agenda for the coming twelve months.  We may well reflect the model above in the structure of the material but, if not, we will certainly be talking about how I and my team did against our targets in those four persona areas and how we will be jointly fulfilling all four in the coming year.  Clearly, like any good CIO, I will be balancing that future roadmap both with our corporate business imperatives and the available funding that we forecast the various business cases will generate.  If anyone has any great exemplars of such progress/performance reports that they are willing to share please feel free.

Finally I’d be failing in my declared intent to “keep it real” if I failed to cover one of the truisms of the CIO role: there is always more value you feel you should be delivering; there is never enough resource or funding to do all you know needs doing; and you will always be looking for initiatives to delight your stakeholders and user base (buying the time/space to carry out the hygiene projects without which eventually things will get terribly messy and difficult)!

Image credit © Harvard Business Publishing

An opportunity to examine the role of a CIO

I’ve spoken to many audiences on the nature of the CIO role and the imperatives facing those of us in that management position.  The norm is for the audience to be existing CIOs or senior IT leaders but last week I spoke to some potential CIOs of the future who are at an earlier stage of their career, as Fujitsu hosted 18 delegates from the ESSEC Business School to examine the role of the CIO in the modern enterprise. I found that the intellectual energy, enthusiasm and willingness to challenge of the delegates made for a fun event..

I spoke about a day in the life of the CIO: the challenges we meet; the business drivers we embrace; the many different ways that IT can relate to business; and the consequential dimensions that a CIO needs to cover (not just infrastructure/integration/information but also innovation and intelligence).  I’ll write more on these topics later but they were intended to give the delegates an insight into the life of a “real” CIO, or at least this particular one!

Following my talk, my team took some of the demands that I face and worked with the ESSEC students to workshop a part of the process which our Open Innovation Service covers, triaging a number of demands, analysing them for underlying issues, identifying possible solutions, and finally investigating the value that the resulting solutions may offer for ourselves, our customers and our customers’ customers.  Of course, we couldn’t go through all of the details of our Open Innovation Service in an hour but it gave the students some insight into the way that we approach innovation, and they seemed to enjoy the experience and we were all impressed by how they took to the challenge.

Innovation is an important part of being a CIO and it carries with it so much expectation – everyone has strong views about innovation! So it was gratifying that the workshop was so successful and, even in spite of the language barrier (I didn’t attempt to speak French!), the students really understood both the complexity and the potential of what we are trying to do. I hope they took home some valuable insight from the morning they spent with us. For my part, trying to explain the many pressures placed on the CIOs of today to CIOs of the future was a wonderful chance to look closely at my role and evaluate how it might evolve in the coming years.

Smugness, leading to a moment of insight

They say that an addict never stops obsessing about the object of their addiction; so does my still being awake 6 hours into a flight to Tokyo and working not relaxing mark me as an addict to work? Scary question and one I think best to ignore for now as too much self-awareness can be way too disconcerting! Still what I’m reading is really interesting – alright – that might be my addiction still typing but stay with me for now.

I’ve just finished reading a Gartner report entitled “The CIO’s Role In Making The New Realities Real” which was really thought-provoking. I started off feeling super smug as they list five actions a forward-thinking CIO should be actively progressing now and I hit four out of five of them. However, having a plan and executing that plan over the required period in a sustained way are very different propositions. For the record, if you do not have access to the report, the five actions are: see beyond your enterprise and sector to understand the changes underway in the industry/role; build an innovation engine; shift resources to growth and innovation; rethink risk management; increase focus on governance.

I’ve talked about governance and the need to reset the place CIOs and their function have in driving value for the organisation in a world of “have credit card will purchase cloud computing” and “shadow IT” in a previous post. I’ve probably bored people rigid with opinion on the importance of innovation and how I agree with the analysts arguing that the future CIO will be as much about innovation as they will information. However, what I am finding the toughest action to progress is shifting resource to growth and innovation in a world where I have to deliver year on year cost reductions, minimise my spend and maximise the value derived, ideally via that lovely fantasy of many of zero cost, ever-lasting, self evolving IT perfection. It is a constant challenge to free up resources, people or money, to enable strategic value enhancing initiatives (as opposed to making IT systems cost less) whilst broadly performing the same function and enabling a non-innovated business process/outcome. This is what really caught my attention as it relates directly to a current challenge with which I’m wrestling: how to tackle, in a way that does not involve simply buying more storage, our insatiable corporate appetite to store more and more information, structured and unstructured.

My thoughts were focused on this topic by a mix of CAPEX requests, strategy proposals, an extremely interesting set of articles in the February edition of Wired (UK) entitled “Your Life Torn Open, What The End Of Privacy Means for You” (Sharing is a trap; Zuckerberg’s next move; get over it) and the fact I will be meeting Professor Nonaka this week, a business guru with a track record in knowledge management. I cannot do justice to the thought-provoking issues and insights contained in the Wired portfolio but I would strongly urge that you read them, soon. However, in this context it hammered home to me that we need to revisit the information we are storing, ask why we are storing it and ask what value is derived from the sheer volume as opposed to the knowledge that may be harvested from it. We absolutely cannot continue chasing the lowest cost solution to the ever growing demands for storage space nor can we allow the volume to make it ever more difficult or slow to access the knowledge. At the same time, we absolutely cannot allow our growing unstructured data storage requirements to be constrained by the consequences of our structured data “file everything multiple times” habit. Hardly a eureka moment or even very insightful but sometimes the spur to tackle preconceptions and reset your approach can arise from the least likely component convergence. So clearly, the key question now is “What am I going to do exactly then to break the cycle of ever expanding storage spend?”…

Image credit: © DigitalGenetics –

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 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 –

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

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 –