Technology is strategic
Having just attended Orange Business Services’ Live Munich 2011 as a blogger journalist (#live11 for live blogging on Twitter), I wanted to report back on a couple of key thoughts about the importance of technology in business.
As suggested by a number of speakers at the conference, Information Technology (I.T.) or Information Systems (I.S.) continue to be viewed as necessary evil in many companies. It is a cost that C-suite executives would rather limit and/or defer whenever possible. This is particularly true in the current economic climate.
Getting Information Systems that will fit the business’ needs will require the I.S. personnel to work in the business, not just with the organization. Specifically, it is important to consider first the usages, then select the appropriate technological platform. Because of the fast paced evolution of the tools, the plethora of choices of systems of communication and the increasing need for bandwidth and speed, there is little chance that I.S. decisions can be made successfully without being fully integrated and upstream in the business process.
Why is this the case?
1/ Because the choices are huge and, as companies get larger in scale, so the complexity of managing and merging systems rises. This is true not just of the infrastructure and platforms, but of the ownership of and familiarity with these new systems by the employees using them.
2/ Because communication is the lifeblood of a good business and with the changing patterns of communication — whether it is blackberry messenger, text messaging, instant chat, Facebook messages, skype, webex, video conferencing — the systems need to keep apace. Fluid communication is vital for excellence in execution.
3/ And, when companies are looking to develop their social media strategies, it is important to consider first the social platform (ie. people’s usage), before the technological platform.
Getting the right personnel will be key
Getting the right personnel in the IT/IS department is going to be a major challenge for most organizations. At the head of IS, (i.e. the “CIO”), the company needs to find someone who knows how to manage the C-suite conversation at a strategic level, has a strong operational fibre* and has access to (or is knowledgeable about) the latest tools and usages. And, then there are the lower tier IT specialists. Finding the IT personnel with an entrepreneurial flare, with business sense and geek power is a special and rare blend. HR teams are usually not well versed in the channels used to find such people.
Bottom Line: IT and HR are two areas that need to play significantly more important role in the strategic construction of the business. Your thoughts, please!
* I am inclined to think of that as a business-minded “fibre optic“!
Although I do agree on many points, I'm worried if we – the social media people – are not biaised in our opinions towards strategy. Wouldn't finance be strategic, in a company that makes billions? For sure. Is technology strategic in a large hotel organization? Vital yes, strategic no. Customer relation is strategic in that case. And IT is a tool that obviously serves the stratgy.
It certainly will depend on the company and the sector, but the main point relates to the current context and companies being so far behind the curve.
You are right, Herve: when done well, technology is a tool at the service of the company's needs. However, I think that, for most companies, technology (IT) has always been considered an after thought, which has caused companies en masse to miss the necessary upgrade. This is why, so often, people at home have better equipment than at work. With information and communication being a key business driver, the tool needs to be massively improved.
Herve has a point. Finance people make more money than marketing or IT, because money rules. Maybe what makes IT different compared to finance (or another department) is its characteristics (without using the word nature) evolving constantly, necessary everywhere, super complex, and a source of difficulties and frustration, or a tool for expansion and satisfaction. Who in a company does not need IT? even the customer to communicate with the company. Today, I will close my business with a bank that has NO good IT.