In my recent IT Odyssey interviews,1 over 80% of the executives I spoke with painfully described their struggles to find more viable business and IT models. Their current approaches appeared to be running out of steam and likely to collapse by 2020, if not sooner. This sounds like a perfect scenario for enterprises to rapidly deploy an array of extremely promising new IT alternative delivery vehicles (ADVs)2 and services. However, as with most things technology-oriented, the devil is in the details.
To deliver material contributions, these new IT ADVs and services (i.e., Code Halos3 built on SMAC technologies) require significant change to business models, IT architectures and organizational structures. Unfortunately, such bedrock enterprise fixtures typically advance far more slowly than Moore's Law. As a result, it is hard to perceive the glacial pace at which ADVs are being applied and assimilated, especially in large enterprises.
The executives with whom I spoke pinpointed numerous factors that will impact the journey to 2020:
While change and urgency are not optional, just getting better at what they do isn't enough. Radical — not just rapid — change is needed.
Dramatically different approaches, skills and capabilities are needed.
Uncertain or weak economic factors increase the angst of introducing risk.
Shaky shareholder perceptions entice activists to make short-term demands.
Expanding, ambiguous regulations complicate existing businesses and delay new ADVs from moving forward.
Non-greenfield businesses must integrate new approaches with overly complex but well-performing legacy businesses, processes, products, skills, customers and IT systems.
Many of today's leading executives built their careers by increasing enterprise efficiencies — tightening known processes, consolidating resources, de-risking, better sourcing commodity business aspects and optimizing supply chains. The 2014–2020 timeframe should be a period of severe culture and capabilities shock for many of these execs.
How do I know? Repeatedly, the execs with whom I spoke described their difficulties in learning what IT could and should do, how to do it and how to achieve material contribution. The organizational learning involved is experiential rather than academic (i.e., taught from a textbook or brought by a new hire or consultant). Learning alpine skiing is an example of experiential learning. Watching a video or reading a text helps, but the novice learns by actually launching downhill
For this reason, it won't be until at least 2020 that most enterprises will have learned enough to make ADVs and their evolving application services the cornerstone of their business-IT strategies. Those that can learn or adapt more adroitly over this period should gain competitive ground by capitalizing on what their organizations can do that competitors can't. For those still struggling in 2020, it may be too late to remain competitive. It is seldom possible to catch up on experiential learning
The Enabling IT Capabilities of 2020