26 mars 2011

Could you consider IT (Information Technology) as an arm for growth ?

When Michael Porter in the 80's launched the concept of the extended enterprise, he did push the idea that IT should be considered as the hub for connecting the company with the ecosystem, i.e. suppliers, customers, partners, etc. Going further, the company can use IT as a differentiator and create competitive advantages over competition. In the 80's, technology was not at the level of today and many general managers did consider IT at this time as a cost and ... no more. Indeed IT was seen as something you need (no choice) but also a world of complexity and far from the BU's priorities. For those who where at school in the 80's, you probably have in mind your professor on stage showing this kind of chart. But again the technical progress in this young industry, IT is an industry with less than 50 years of evolution, were not so impressive at that time. Later as we approached the year 2000, we did know the internet revolution and the new economy, presented as the arm for destroying the old existing companies. But the crisis at the beginning of the 2000 closed the debate and many new businesses went down as quickly as they appeared in the front scene. The top managers then did not really change their views. They basically all kept in mind the money spent in ERP project, the delays and finally had the following simple view : IT is complex, projects are expensive, consuming always more than planned and timing is just an indication ! So after two decades of effort to convince top management that IT should be seen as an engine for growth, for creating competitive advantages, for differentiating from competition, we basically did not make a lot of progress. But now things looks different. Since 2003, the IT world did announce a lot of innovations:
SOA has been a revolution in the IT world
- SOA (Services Oriented Architecture), a barbarian concept (!) is in fact a very simple and attractive one : the idea is based on the principle that we need "to develop one time and reuse multiple times". Indeed, this is about creating a library of service components that you can assemble together to create a process and then an application for fixing/resolving a company issue. The gain is : less expensive (we speak K$ instead of M$) and less time for implementation (we speak in weeks or months instead of years !). SOA has been a big change in the IT landscape. 
HP can help integrating technologies
- The convergence of technology has also been a big change. Being an HP employee I could be considered as really non objective here but I do believe that HP has been the first company to launch this concept. Indeed no other company can really develop a similar speech because HP is the only company in the world having a real "end-to-end" framework. HP can equip a branch office with PC, printers, mobility solutions. HP can take care of your data centers while managing the networks between the branch offices and the data center. No one has the capability. Not saying that a customer has to take only HP technology, we are living in a world of heterogeneity, but HP can understand the full information flow of  customers. It helps when it is about to build global solutions. The converged infrastructure idea has changed the way to structure data centers and to handle the infrastructure layer which is so important for modern information systems.
The Cloud Computing revolution
- As flexibility is obviously the aim of IT, the cloud computing has been probably the final touch to convince top managers that IT now has to be considered as a strategic arm for development. With new flexible technologies, virtualization, you can now pay for what you really use, you can use your IT capacities more effectively. For example you can pay for a service. A specialist can provide you what you need and no more in terms of processing, storage, etc. Having over capacities in one country while you are missing some in another one do not help. 
IT is now viewed by general managers as more simple, pretty aligned with business priorities, easy to use, more easy to implement. I am impressed by the level of knowledge of top senior leaders when it comes to IT and systems information. I have in mind a CEO of a significant industrial company who is able to give you a speech about his application framework and what each application is doing for him, what KPI he can get from the system and for what purpose. He knows the value of IT and why investing in it is useful and critical. The is particularly key. Mainly because the business world is more complex than ever. While CIOs have to deal with traditional issues, like security, flexibility, etc., they also have to consider the growing maturity of their customers, the level of competition, the fact that everyone wants to be ON all the time (Always ON), connected from everywhere (mobility), the social networks expansion, the mobile technology integration, etc. 
This is an exiting space with new challenges, clearly linked to business. IT people are no longer (or for some should no longer) investing in one technology for just the beauty of having the last wave, but for aligning IT with business needs and priorities. No more ! So yes the answer is : we all can consider as a framework for growth and competitive gains.
Note: about "Yes we cloud" logo, that I did not know before I went to the internet, I should say that I liked the image. But I should also say that she is a portal dedicated to cloud experience and based in France (Villeurbanne). www.yeswecloud.fr. You also can get more information in the HP portal at hp.com.