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Samsung Business at the Gartner Symposium IT Expo 2013 Barcelona

SamsungLogoI’m delighted to have been asked by Samsung Business to work with them at the Gartner Symposium IT Expo 2013 in Barcelona next week.

I will be capturing the event and creating a body of high quality content through live blogging and comment, insight and analysis articles published through this blog and my social channels.

Get involved, comment and follow me through this blog and my social channels through the Twitter hashtags #SamsungGSym and #GartnerSym

My blog pieces will be posted on the Samsung at Work site during and after the conference – link here

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The Top 10 Strategic CIO Issues For 2013

Perhaps no C-level position has undergone as many changes in expectations, approaches, and philosophies during the past few decades as that of the Chief Information Officer.

And the turbulent forces shaping businesses in today’s always-on global marketplace promise to accelerate that ongoing evolution. In that context, I’ve put together a list of what I believe will be the top priorities for strategic CIOs in the coming year.

As you’ll see, each of these 10 is rooted in change, and calls for the CIO to be a leader instead of a follower; a disrupter instead of a go-alonger; and a business-driven executive instead of a tech-focused manager.

Several themes reverberate throughout: analytics, breaking down silos, social, the cloud, and particularly customers, opportunities, growth, and innovation. I hope these prove helpful, and please share your feedback in the comments section below or on Twitter at @bobevansIT and @christianmcm.

1) Simplify IT and Transform Your Spending: Kick the 80/20 Budget Habit. While surely not as sexy as Social and Business Analytics and Cloud, this bold decision to take an entirely new approach to IT infrastructure is the one and only way CIOs can unlock the funding necessary to pursue those snazzier and unquestionably vital new initiatives. Far too many companies today find that they need to devote 70% or even 80% of their IT budget just to run and maintain what they’ve already got, leaving as little as 20% for innovation. And if you wonder sometimes why you’ve got precious little IT budget available to fund growth-oriented innovation, the answer becomes pretty clear by looking at the list of usual suspects that have brought us to this point: server sprawl, massively underutilized storage resources, unproductive data centers, labor-intensive integration requirements, and a near-endless list of “strategic” vendors. The IT policies of the past that resulted in the 80/20 trap are simply no longer able to meet the needs of today’s intensely demanding and always-on business world, and are indeed becoming liabilities not just because they’re inadequate but also because they suck up vast percentages of the IT budget and make it almost impossible for CIOs to fund essential new efforts in analytics or cloud or mobile or social. CIOs need to determine which vendors are only exacerbating this problem, and which ones offer modern alternatives that are cheaper, faster, and smarter. My POV: CEOs should tie most or all of the variable compensation for their CIOs to changing that deadly 80/20 budget ratio by 5 percentage points per year. The CIOs willing to tackle this huge issue will not only earn some nice bonus dollars but will unlock huge value for their companies as well as for their own careers.

2) Lead the Social Revolution: Drive the Social-Enabled Enterprise.When social media began to invade the corporate world some years back, the traditional border-collie behavior of many CIOs triggered immediate and unconditional opposition to social tools on the grounds of security challenges, lack of familiarity, and unproven value. As social’s ability to forge new and more-immediate relationships with customers became more clear, some CIOs grudgingly agreed to let down the drawbridge (but they drew the line at removing the alligators from the moat!). Today’s business-technology leaders must go well beyond that passive acceptance and become passionate and unconditional zealots for the social-driven revolution and its ability to help their companies grow by providing real-time customer insights, engagements, and processes. Beyond customers, the social revolution is also becoming indispensable internally for motivating existing employees and recruiting great new talent, and in forging deeper and more-valuable relationships with partners. My POV: CIOs who fight this trend will be pushed aside by CMOs and LOB heads who understand social’s potential and know they can’t compete unless that potential is harnessed by the company for competitive advantage. And what does “pushed aside” mean? At best, temporary embarrassment, and at worst, demotion or even unemployment.

3) Unleash Your Company’s Intelligence: Create the Enterprise-Wide Opportunity Chain. Building on but transcending existing notions of supply chain and demand chain and data warehouses and data marts, the Opportunity Chain transforms that internally oriented information into the customer-centric and growth-driven language of opportunity. New prospects, new market trends, new chances to engage, new insights for new products, new demographic patterns: information and insights about all of these probably exist somewhere within your corporate IT maze but are almost impossible to find because we cloak them in IT-specific terminology and then trap them in incompatible silos. But today’s new and always-on global marketplace requires new insights driven by the social revolution, and many of our old and trusty systems and approaches are simply not suited to the new realities demanded by our customers and by our times. In addition, the Opportunity Chain concept provides a market-facing framework and context for richly exploiting the potential of business analytics and Big Data. My POV: Whatever it’s called, this idea of the Opportunity Chain gives CIOs a fantastic, well, opportunity to drive high-value new information assets throughout the company and demonstrate again that when business technology is aggressively imagined and led, it drives growth and sparks new and deeper engagements with customers.

4) Embrace the Engagement Economy: Merge the Back Office and the Front Office into the Customer Office. One of the most-valuable perks of being a CIO is the ability to be involved with and understand not just some but all of a company’s end-to-end processes. From manufacturing to marketing, from procurement to product development, from finance to Facebook, the CIO and the business-technology team have tremendous insights into how a company’s operations, its priorities, its vulnerabilities, and its opportunities. So today, as our systems of record become systems of engagement, and as the social revolution opens up all facets of our enterprise to customer interactions as well as customer scrutiny, isn’t it time to bulldoze the internally constructed silos separating the folks that have traditionally touched the customer (the “front office”) with those that were never allowed to—or at least supposed to (the “back office”)? Shouldn’t we try to engage our customers in product development? Engineering? Service plans and operations? Marketing? Pricing options? My POV: While traditional systems reinforce the notion that only the privileged few get to interact with customers—and while that might be convenient for us internally—today’s socially powered consumers want access beyond the sales team. The question is, are you able—and willing—to grant that essential access?

5) Future-Proof Your IT Architecture. Think back just three years to the state of your business and the state of your IT strategy: the cloud was still mostly conceptual or isolated out on the fringes, social was a minor but persistent irritation, Big Data was mostly an egghead conversation and not likely to get beyond that, “engagement” was something you hoped your daughter would not get into with her goofy boyfriend, business analytics was all taken care of by a big team of specialists serving a small team of executives, and the iPad was still blessedly nothing but a rumor. The CFO badgered you every month about your endless demands for more real estate in which to put endlessly growing racks of servers requiring endlessly growing volumes of electricity and air conditioning, but what else could you do? The data explosion required a parallel explosion infrastructure growth, right? But the physics and the finances of such an approach no longer work, and the new business demands of today must surely be met with more-innovative tools tomorrow.My POV: Businesses need fresh thinking about the architecture of tomorrow because merely rehabbing or adding on to the existing plan will simply not meet the wildly different and more-demanding requirements of tomorrow. Cloud, social, mobile, engagement, Big Vision (formerly Big Data), and a greatly accelerated pace and scale of global business require modern apps, optimized systems, fault-tolerance, full support across cloud and on-premise and a mix of both, and built-in BI and social capabilities.

6) Upgrade “Cloud Strategy” to “Business Transformation Enabled by the Cloud.” Without question, CIOs must have detailed strategies and plans for cloud computing and many already have those in place (to those of you who don’t, well, did you ever get that high-school teaching certificate?). But the strategic CIO will use the next several months to collaborate with the CEO in upgrading that tech-centric plan into a broader vision for a sweeping business transformation of the entire enterprise. If you’re still viewing your cloud strategy based on a tech-driven plan written a year or two ago—before the ascendancy of social, customer engagement, Big Data, and business analytics—you’re going to miss the boat. My POV: Cloud projects will not be judged on their technical merits or on hitting their go-live dates, but rather by how deeply they impact essential business-transformation initiatives, and by how much business value and opportunity they unlocked. In the process, CIOs will segment themselves into two groups: IT leaders who focus solely on the tech aspects of cloud deployments, and business leaders who ensure that cloud projects are conceived and executed in the service of customers, business execution, and engagement.

7) Transform Big Data into Big Insights, Big Vision, and Big Opportunities. In the past year or so, much of the talk about Big Data has obscured the fact that the real issue is enabling intelligent and instantaneous analysis to provide optimal insights for business decisions. CIOs need to ensure they’re looking at these high-volume, high-velocity challenges in the right way: as business enablers, not tech projects. For example: What if you could enable dynamic pricing of your company’s products around the globe? What if you could perform fraud-detection analytics across all of your transactions in real time, instead of across just a random sampling of only a few percent of all those transactions? What if you could analyze three years’ worth of customer data in minutes, rather than only the past three months in hours? In the meantime, we can be certain that the scale and speed of this current challenge will only increase as CIOs must rapidly and seamlessly enhance their traditional corporate data with vast new streams of social and mobile data to realize the full potential of these strategic Big Opportunities.My POV: Some forecasts say the CMO will soon be calling the shots for IT; while I don’t buy into that, I do agree that CIOs who choose to sit back and wait for “the business” to tell them what to do will end up reporting to the CMO within a year or two. But companies will fare much better if their CIOs eagerly and rapidly begin framing Big Data challenges and opportunities in terms of customers, opportunities, revenue, and business value.

8) Preside over a Shotgun Wedding: Systems of Record Marry Systems of Engagement. Your traditional back-end systems might be sturdy and proven workhorses but they’re simply not equipped to handle the vast new streams of data and information from social, video, Customer Experience, and more. Conversely, while those new engagement tools and solutions are fabulous gateways into the real-time wants and needs of customers and employees, they lack the historical and institutional breadth and knowledge of your trusty ERP systems. The strategic CIO will find new approaches and/or solutions to rapidly and seamlessly tie these separate worlds together. This strategic integration will become the cornerstone of the Opportunity Chain described above in #3, and also of the consolidation of the archaic front office and back office into the modern Customer Office as described in #4. My POV: This union of social/mobile with transactional capabilities will give companies a new way to move at the speed of their customers, new methods for engaging with customers to build multifaceted relationships rather than linear transactions, and the ability to avoid getting stuck in the tar pit of siloed systems designed to meet internal requirements rather than enable the co-creation of value with customers.

9) Lead with Speed: CIO as Chief Acceleration Officer. I first suggested this aspirational model about 18 months ago when I wrote the following http://www.informationweek.com/global-cio/interviews/global-cio-my-farewell-column-10-big-thi/229300888?pgno=2  ,  and the rationale for the CIO to function as chief corporate accelerant is even more true today: “If you could promise your CEO that you could shorten product-development times, reduce days-of-inventory turns, accelerate deliveries to customers, cut or eliminate the wait-times customers endure on your support lines, and shorten your order-to-cash cycle, is there a CEO on planet Earth who wouldn’t idolize you? So why not embrace that as a new mission for your IT organization and think of what you do as being the Chief Acceleration Officer, the exec who leads the company’s efforts to do everything it does not just better but faster? Give the gift of speed, and see if anyone in your company or among your customers wants to return it.” My POV: While I’m surely not proposing that title as an official thing, businesses in every industry will find in 2013 that, more than ever before, speed kills—the only question will be whether your company’s going to be the victim or the perp.

10) Bend the Value Curve: More Innovation, Less Integration. For the past 30 or so years, tech vendors have generally introduced streams of new products that were not only increasingly more powerful and capable, but also increasingly more complex, requiring ever-greater volumes of integration, testing, tuning, modifying, patching, upgrading, monitoring, etc., etc. Back when viable alternatives weren’t available, that was an okay model—IT teams specialized in stringing together piece-parts from hundreds of vendors and somehow managed to figure out ways to make it all work together. But today, that model is ready to begin making the transition over to the Computer Museum. Customer-side CEOs in particular are growing increasingly fed up with the apparent black arts of IT operations that require larger and larger budgets without predictably delivering more and more business value. For CIOs, the answer is simple—not easy, but simple: they need to begin rapidly withdrawing themselves and their business-technology teams from the integration business and begin devoting more and more of their time to growth-oriented and customer-centric innovation. In the past few years, a handful of IT vendors have begun offering a new breed of engineered systems or optimized systems designed to offer pre-bundled and pre-tested purpose-built machines that free customers from the drudgery of endless integration busywork. Oracle led the way at the high end with Exadata, Exalytics, and Exalogic, and Apple’s iPhone is on its way to becoming a $100-billion example of the core concept: more innovation and less innovation. IBM followed Oracle’s lead a few months back with its Pure Systems, and even Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, in introducing the new Surface tablet, said it was time for Microsoft to try to optimize the hardware/software interactions.My POV: While not the answer (yet) for every question, engineered systems give strategic CIOs considerable latitude to devote more people and energy toward innovative customer-facing initiatives, and simultaneously alleviate the need for CIOs to pour so many budget dollars into low-value integration work that generates little or no competitive advantage.

So there’s my list of priorities for the strategic CIO—how about sharing yours, along with your feedback on the list above?

Authored by and reproduced with full permission of Bob Evans, Senior Vice President, Communications at Oracle

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IT just gets easier

Christian McMahonWe are all looking for the easiest and most cost effective solutions in everything that we do but often shy away from certain tasks due to their intricacies and capacity in being overcharged by vendors or providers.

As the web and enterprise have evolved and moved upwards through Web 1.0 and on to Web 2.0 the tools and information sources have improved but the need to develop all of the features necessary to e.g. build a website have remained quite basic.

I have always delighted in tools and services that not only provide quality functionality but also ones that save me time and effort in having to do exactly so.
My absolute favourites are ones that not only do the above but continue to deliver new releases that each time improve upon their initial offerings with quality support (i.e. More than just a teenager in Nebraska available outside school hours to offer it)

This was all brought home to me recently when I looked hypothetically at how easy it would be to create a new website and more specifically one which could be underpinned with ecommerce functionality.

Firstly, part one of my objective was to look at the website creation side of things.

I was pleasantly surprised by what I found and in how straightforward it would be to achieve this thanks to the quality of the offerings in the market place and through recommendations passed on to me by friends.
Not only that, they would look good too with minimal effort.

If you want a straightforward flash site, stop everything you are doing and head over to Wix and start playing around with what you want.
You can have something very impressive up and running pretty quickly that people will think you have had done professionally.

No coding necessary, search engine friendly, drag and drop design and above all its FREE to get going (you can upgrade to their Premium plans should you wish to bolt more on or remove ads etc.).
It really is as simple as that.

Moving on to the second task and the locating of a robust and easy to develop e-commerce platform.

Having previously created successful e-commerce sites for large multinationals, I appreciated the complexities and nuances to look out for but I was blown away by the quality and richness of the Magento E-commerce Platform offering.

These guys have really nailed the ‘out of a box’ e-commerce platform that has eluded us for years and have included everything that you could ever possibly need and wish for when trying to build an e-commerce platform.

The sheer breadth of features means you have to get your head together and really plan out your site beforehand. Study both your target markets and plan for the features that they will expect to see as well as the logistics of not only managing your inventories but also in managing the housework of the site itself.

Unless you are a developer or have access to the relevant development skills, you will obviously have to work with one of their solution partners to get your site to the level that you want to deliver to your clients.
I can certainly guarantee the cost of doing this is much cheaper and more beneficial than if you had to create a team of developers to create something from scratch, so it’s a no brainer to get a head start with a package like this.
Not only that but you will also benefit from all of the new features and functionality their new releases bring to market.

Their hosting and support model is also a nice comfort blanket and will keep you from waking up at night through the fear of losing your own developers and their specific skill sets and knowledge of your site/code.
The key here as always with development projects is to not over customise your offering so you can still benefit from the new product release and functionality delivered in the Magento software updates (over customisation is the most elementary and often repeated error in development projects).

The opening up of the Magento Platform through Magento Connect delivers a rich seam of extensions that are more often tailored by sector or specific niche but make no mistake they all help bolster an already feature laden platform.
I believe that opening up to a marketplace or 3rd party add on approach is crucial to the growth and richness of any platform – just ask the guys at Salesforce.com!

Footnote to Magento is that whilst I was writing this, it has been declared that they are being acquired by EBay – good for them and testament to the quality of their product!

So is this the evolution of a brief stopover at Web/Enterprise 2.4 on the march towards the fabled Web 3.0 with its primary drivers of personalisation and the Semantic Web?
Personally, I think this is a point version update that shows evidence of technology providing real and tangible progress that empowers both the enterprise and the individual.
At present, Social Media appears to be the magic carpet carrying society and enterprises in to a new technical era where it not only drives commercialisation but has also overtaken the older, rock solid medium of television amongst younger generations. However, this alone cannot sustain all necessary technology.

The benefit of all this to Enterprise is clear in that most software development will become easier and cheaper to produce.

With the evolutionary improvement of ‘out of the box’ solutions the size of development teams will naturally reduce as the volume of hand crafted code and subsequent support is reduced when compared with older methods of developing such products.
With the ultimate aim of delivering better products for your customers and in building shareholder value, we must embrace this advance in technology and developers must also move forward in learning new skills and taking that step forward hand in hand with the enterprise rather than rebelling against it.

The conclusion of all this is that tools and technology really have moved on and now offer incredible power and functionality to the individual that was only previously available through professional service companies.
Gone is the need to carve everything from the single block of marble by yourself as technology has yet again moved on and taken another long stride towards the nirvana of absolute functionality.

 

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A glimpse of the future for CIO’s

glimpseintofutureThere are those that try to predict it; those that dread it and those that revel in it but you can’t deny that it’s going to happen in some way shape or form.

If you are of a certain age such as me you will remember watching the BBC show ‘Tomorrows World’ and its predictions of how we would be living now.
I remember the notions of how we would all be commuting to work in our own private flying saucers and having our meals served to us by robot butlers that seem so fanciful now.

Whilst we haven’t seen many of these predictions come true, the future will always bring new developments. Its what we do with them and how we react that counts!

One of my favourite sporting metaphors is that ‘you make your own luck’ and this really translates to if you work hard and deliver, you will start to receive kinder breaks along the way’.
Realistically, no matter how much you try to hide from it, the future really is what you make it.

When we are doing any form of business planning, we have to try and cater for what the future will bring as accurately as possible.
Whilst this is not easy, you can try to follow trends or address certain needs such as installing a CRM or ERP system (big gulp) and many of these will be able to reach the budgetary approval stage, as they are often known as being necessary for any thriving business by the CEO/CFO.

Any C-Suite will want to see innovation coming from its IT head but how far they want to go and what allocation of cash you get is down to the individual to prise away from them.
You should be strong and demand some allocation for innovation, as you really never know if this could give your company a game changing service or something to lift it away from its competitors.
Often, if you do this once and succeed in delivering ROI there will be a release of at least a couple of the CFO’s fingers from the purse strings before you next meet.

Innovation is the real key here and in these tough times, its what is going to bring and keep IT at the top table whilst gaining you the full support of your peers.
Innovation is what separates the old-fashioned ‘lights on’ mentality of the old school IT Director from the new school machinations of the CIO.
Indeed, many suggest that the title of CIO should stand for Chief Innovation Officer rather than the traditional Chief Information Officer (more of that on another day).
One thing is for sure, you don’t want to be stagnating as the old school IT Director any longer and in any type of organisation this can no longer be tolerated.
When the now more frequent organisational reviews take place, you certainly don’t want to be the person searching frantically for a chair to sit on when the music stops….

Every IT head needs to always have one eye on the future and in how they can bring value to the business in spotting a new trend or service that will add real value to the business.
If you spot a service that you think would be advantageous for a particular function in your organisation, don’t be afraid to get them involved in a demo or a meeting with the vendor as quickly as possible – they will thank you either way for involving and thinking of them.
If you think there is something there that can be useful, they could probably spot at least another five reasons if the service is right for them during the demo.
This not only brings quicker ROI if the service is on the money but will also display a real willingness to collaborate across your top team.
Multiply this by a few times and you could well have your very own thriving business incubator.

When in the pre planning stages for budgeting you really need to add a blend of keeping the lights on, the addition of new and proven services as well as a smidgeon for the piloting of new offerings.

Offering that smidgeon or ‘skunk works’ as American’s call it is what will really spark innovation and allow staff to spread their wings a bit by being involved.
Indeed, many US corporations such as Google and LinkedIn offer as much as one full day a week or month to staff to work on personal projects.
These ‘personal project’s’ have delivered unbelievable return and form the backbone of some of the most profitable deliverables that these companies have produced through their ‘labs’ or ‘hack-days’ respectively.

I can hear you saying that it’s all right for these huge, profitable corporations to allow staff to spare their time for this, but I can assure that it really does make a difference as long as its not to the detriment of all of your other pressing deliverables (its also a brilliant palette cleanser for staff to work on in between large projects and to rev them up for their next major challenge).
There is a reason that the best and brightest go to such companies and its not just the resources or money available to them (they could get these in most places) but its mainly the collegiate culture in which they know that if they have a good idea, it will be recognised, nurtured and noticed right up to the boardroom (how may of us can really promise that to new recruits).

I have often come across some of the best ideas or products in the strangest places (stop giggling at the back).
The smallest conversations with colleagues or strangers can provide such a spark and be more profitable than the mundane act of trawling across endless conference floors getting your badge barcode zapped by smiling vendors promising to solve all of your problems whilst you pilfer any available freebies on their stand (we’ve all done it right…?).
The difference is having the confidence to carry them through and the belief in your peers to believe and trust in you to do so.
Social Media is also making it easier by the day to find new products or services that you can follow up on.
The social media marketplace is a real melting pot of products, innovations and ideas, with some shooting up and dying like cheap fireworks but if you scratch beneath the surface and mine the seams you will find some real gems.

The obvious winner is the quality or following of the idea and these will be the kingmakers of any new product or service that you provide.
Having a great product but no following will cause it a quick and painful death and face in the boardroom if you continue to push it – know when to move on, even with a bloodied nose.

I can’t say that we will be commuting in our personal flying saucers anytime soon but one thing I do know about the future right now is that its going to be bumpy and that you have to be in it to win it.

Carpe diem.

 

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