For CIOs, it is the best of times and the worst of times. Five macro forces--analytics, mobile, social, cloud and cyber--are disrupting the nature of IT and carrying businesses into the postdigital era.
The possibility is there for the CIO role to fade into irrelevance, with IT becoming a utility that's managed as a distributed function across the business. But the opportunity is also there for the CIO to become the catalyst for transforming the business, a trusted adviser that helps CEOs navigate the digital business environment.
"The postdigital era, like the post-industrial era, reflects a 'new normal' for business and a new basis for competition," says Mark White, principal and CTO of Deloitte Consulting. "In post-industrial times, we didn't forego industrialization, we embraced it. The postdigital era is similar, but with digitalization as its core."
White posits that within the next 18 to 24 months the convergence and controlled collision of those five macro forces& will enable businesses to realize the postdigital enterprise, where all five forces are mature, implemented, integrated and baked-in instead of bolted on.
"It's an uncommon time to have five forces--all newly emerged, all evolving, all technology-centric--already impacting business so strongly," White says. "It is an opportunity for IT to deliver extraordinary value via modest investments on top of a strong legacy technology footprint."
This, White says, will change operating models, capabilities, even business models. The postdigital enterprise is not one in which digitalization is complete and over with; rather, much like industrialization in the post-industrial era, these digital forces will become the new basis for competition.
CIOs Poised to Be Harbingers of Postdigital Change
"CIOs are in a unique position to be the harbingers of change," write Suketu Gandhi, principal of Deloitte Consulting, and Bill Briggs, director of Deloitte Consulting, in firm's recently released Tech Trends 2013: Elements of Postdigital report. "To serve as catalysts across the executive suite, helping others understand the boundaries of the possible. To force thinking beyond veneering existing solutions and processes. To stand accountable for realizing transformation."
Gandhi and Briggs note that the relationship between the business and IT is almost always a complicated one. After all, technology may be at the heart of most business strategy today, but IT departments are also a high-profile cost center, often the single largest expense on the balance sheet.
A recent Gartner study found that 45 percent of IT leaders now report to the CFO. Budgets are shrinking, businesses have less and less tolerance for long, drawn-out IT projects, and end-users are increasingly setting their expectations for reliability and usability based upon consumer products rather than enterprise systems.
"At the same time, the five postdigital forces are changing the very nature of IT," Gandhi and Briggs say. "Mobile has destroyed constraints based on physical location. Users now expect that the power of the enterprise should be available at the point where decisions are made and where business is transacted--no matter where that is. Social is flattening internal hierarchies, rewriting the possibilities of global collaboration inside and outside of organization boundaries and allowing engagement with consumers as individuals--customer segments of one.
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