The future is unknown, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be planned for. At a moment when the role of the information technology department has never been so scrutinised, the challenge for today’s CIOs is to be ready for a diverse range of possible outcomes.
This is no mean feat: the Accenture Institute for High Performance has identified more than 60 forces that may have an impact on the agenda for enterprise IT and the future of the IT function.
Many executives are eager to change the IT organisation.
In our survey of 152 senior business executives and 162 IT executives, more executives singled out IT than any other as the function they would most like to rebuild from scratch.
But how does one satisfy that desire without falling into the trap of basing an enterprise IT strategy on a vision of the future that may turn out to be wholly inaccurate?
Forces for change
The first step is to identify and concentrate on those forces for change likely to be the most significant drivers of the agenda.
We believe there are eight:
- The rise of consumer IT such as smart phones and social networks
- New competitive threats from emerging market multinationals and internet-based models
- The vulnerability of organisations to cyber attacks
- Greater pressure for operational efficiency
- More decision-making driven by data
- New approaches to innovation
- The impact of geopolitics and regulation
- The possibility of disruptive disasters
Consider those ideas carefully. Many of them are obvious forces for good and genuine opportunities for businesses to add value and to boost the bottom line.
Others, such as the rise of consumer IT, are cultural themes that both transcend and affect the work place.
Some are clearly negative forces, with real potential to damage businesses that have not prepared for them.
The mixed nature of these drivers requires CIOs to question an assumption that is often made about the future for enterprise IT: that it will evolve in a flat and increasingly connected world where data and computer intelligence grows exponentially.
That is certainly one vision of the future, but it is not the only one.
Some policymakers and business leaders fear the worst, given the geopolitical shocks caused by the financial crisis and global economic slowdown.
The IMF’s Christine Lagarde has warned the world could slip into a 1930s moment. A moment where trust and co-operation break down and countries turn inward.
CIOs must therefore consider some radically different scenarios as they plan for change. If globalisation and connectivity continue apace the challenge will be to invest in IT that keeps the company ahead of its competitors.