Today's technology leaders are also business leaders. From Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg to Google's (now known as Alphabet) Larry Page and Sergey Brin to Uber's Travis Kalanick, they all built multi-billion enterprises by focusing on users' problems first. Technology was a means to an end — and so it should be for today's IT professionals.
A scary thought? That's understandable. When I first started my career, the IT manager's top priority was to master usage of a specific technology or set of technologies and deliver traditional programs and projects. System uptime and budgetary precision were about all the senior executives required of the IT department, a cash-consuming operation huddled away in dark, chilly rooms where the servers and software lived.
Those days are long gone. Expectations are higher today, and a new breed of IT pro is needed. Executives who understand that there is no such thing as a distinct IT strategy; there is only a business strategy that's powered by IT. Or, as we call it at HP, a "New Style of Business."
Meet the new breed
Fibre speed has necessitated the change. New methods of delivering common business services are formed cheaply and instantly online, achieving marketing scale via social media campaigns that would have cost millions just a few years ago.
Most aren't responding well to this new reality. We recently surveyed IT professionals at 100 enterprise-sized companies in Singapore and found that 81 percent aren't built to disrupt their markets or competitors, leaving them open to being disrupted. Worse, of the 59 percent surveyed that fit in the "mainstream" category — reflective of the state of most global businesses — 27 percent said they lack a leadership team in charge of achieving a fully digital enterprise.
Can you imagine? At a time of rapid change, more than one in four of the companies in Singapore we surveyed have no one making decisions about how to best use digital technology to achieve business outcomes.
Vulnerable firms like these need IT pros who have the skills and temperament to enable the New Style of Business. Are you among the list? Whether you hire or train to fill this need, your team should possess each of these four attributes:
- A startup mentality. Among the companies deemed as "leaders" in our survey, 100 percent had already embraced advanced digital technology such as cloud computing and Big Data to achieve business goals and 42 percent were already seeing results.
- Adaptability amid rapid change. These same leaders are also more likely to move fast and change amid industry shifts: 89 percent said they wished to fundamentally change their IT systems and 95 percent said they'd willingly invest in new infrastructure to capitalise on digital trends. Moving boldly like this requires leaders who are as deeply knowledgeable about producing revenue and profits as they are supporting the newest platforms.
- Sympathy for the user. Technology serves users, not the other way around. IT pros that recognise this are as much designers as they are infrastructure experts. For them, new systems and processes are tools for extending the business digitally. From apps that allow users to shop for home-delivered groceries to depositing a check with a smartphone photo, the new breed of IT pro is constantly dreaming up ways to deliver new services - and then designing agile, secure, and high-performance infrastructures to support them.
- Geared towards business outcomes. Finally, Singaporean leaders are opportunistic. All of them we surveyed said that there's a close collaboration between IT and business executives at their companies. These are the digital disruptors. Think of them as the vanguard of the New Style of Business, and they're achieving higher IT functionality, reliability, security, and agility in chasing better business outcomes. With 42 percent already achieving results, it's fair to say that, to a large degree, they're succeeding.
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