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Customer, Operational and Information Technology are different, manage them so

The breadth of technology that is or will soon be within many organisations will require a new approach. The book “What’s your Digital Business Model?” lands on two key factors that will determine how successful an organisation will be in the digital era;

  • Closeness to the customer

  • Digital ecosystems.

The first is about customer intimacy, and the other is about integration and scale, they are potentially dichotomies; however, within an exceptional digital organisation, they are not. A frequent and possibly overused example is Uber; organisations want to strive to be like Uber or other technology X organisations, many organisations could be X listed!

Let’s use Uber as it is a straightforward example when applying the above two factors, they have;

  • Closeness to their customer through location and previous trip data, they also know what type of customer you are through the rating of driver applies

  • The digital ecosystem has integrated the supply chain, a driver, car, location and passenger. Much of this is automated and integrated; it is an ecosystem.

Uber and other X’s continued to be studied by mainstream, traditional organisations. Sometimes I am asked by organisations how can you help us be like X, we want to be the disruptor.

The easy answer is yes; however, the likelihood of us both forming a meaningful longer-term business relationship is unlikely. Your organisation will probably need to travel at warp to another time and location to be a disruptor. Further, consider those people within your organisation, many of these are fatigued with the talk disruptors. The disruption effort within the organisation in many instances has happened. However, this doesn’t stop statements by leaders or influential members within an organisation, and these are often whispered, mumbled and repeated by others; we need to be more like a disruptor! Are you sure about this? What is feasible and reasonably sensible?

Here is a hint, maybe you don’t need to be the disruptor.

What if all your competitors focussed on being the disruptor and the not the disrupted! What is there or your likelihood of success? How many start-ups fail? Lot’s! Often venture capital will not be made available to those who have not failed and failed multiple times. Large organisations don’t like failing. Plus, many organisational transformations fail (80 to 90%), if start-ups fail and transformations fail what could be an alternative?

What if your organisation was one of only a few thinking alternatively?

What if an organisation thought about segmenting their focus and effort with technology?

Here is a suggestion; make it a stretch but not ridiculous, take a sprint and build to longer more frequent sprints. Avoid the attempt at travelling at warp.

How practical can the principles be applied? Many organisations tend to treat all their technology efforts the same. There is a focus on Agile, an expansion of Agile within organisations is sometimes the easy substitute for creating innovation. Agile will help with doing the work; however, it’s unlikely to change the type of work.

Gartner has lots of smart people who think and write about many things. Gartner introduced the “Bimodal” approach to technology, accelerating selected explorative initiatives and managing other predictable initiatives as per they have been. This was good, many teams I worked with applied Bimodal the approach as it was effective.

However, with the breadth of technology emerging across organisations, there is a higher level of thought before the action that needs to be structured.

There are three possible purposes of technology within an organisation.

Information Technology

The traditional IT department consisting of infrastructure, network, applications, data and security within many enterprises. Their operations evolved with the emerging software as a service cloud technology, were employees opted in for SAAS without informing IT; however, the application was soon isolated or integrated. Employees then brought their own mobile device; these were integrated either being provisioned or managed by a software solution. Both instances are known as shadow.

Operational Technology (OT)

Helps a business perform better from manufacturing or automating manual activities, i.e. cleaning of a floor in a shopping centre. The scale of OT may enable customer technology, i.e. smart transport, in a smart city informing a commuter of the best possible commute home.

Customer Technology (CT)

Generally, enable by a mobile device and application, however, is expected to evolve to an experience. The probability of near field communication recognising your device and prompting something that you are interested in is now occurring.

Each of the above scenarios presents different challenges and opportunities for any organisations within various industries. Consider;

  • An information business, like a professional services organisation, are more likely to have more IT and CT while considering their automation options with OT

  • A manufacturer, who will have IT and OT, possibly some CT

  • A service provider, who will have information, perhaps OT although likely to be partnering with another providing this and IT.

If we are guided by MIT’s successful organisations in the digital era, being close to customers and creating an ecosystem. The emphasis of the ecosystem potential resides with OT, and customer intimacy achieved with CT (obviously). When organisations are considering their priorities there needs to be an awareness of both;

  • Digital era success factors

  • Purposes of technologies.

The innovation within an organisation may be to initially identify and focus on the emerging options of each technology purpose. Rather than wanting to be the next BIG disruptor, seek to shift the organisation with a structured assessment of Information Technology, Operational Technology and Customer Technology and then iterate each with Agile sprints.

Finally, the approach to security might be similar to each technology purposed the consequences, however, will be different;

  • Customer Technology; the theft of information being made publicly available, likely to erode the reputation of an organisation

  • Operational Technology; being penetrated is likely to disrupt the internal performance of the organisation (i.e. production of product) or the orchestration of services offered

  • Information Technology; is likely to result in the theft of information which is expected to compromise organisational knowledge and potentially disable the organisation for a period

Good security practices will also need to evolve as the organisation iterates. If they don’t, they are likely to cause a lag by potentially determining how best to manage the risk of technology; however, the lag may present broader market and commercial issues.


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