One of my heroines is Emma Taylor, who has developed an interlinked series of research-based membership ventures designed to help today’s enterprise exploit the world of contemporary ICT. At the heart of her empire sits Nimbus Ninety.
Her formula is to accept vendor sponsorship to get her research paid for, but to discipline that sponsorship by putting control of the research in the hands of the user community and making it clear to the vendors that their marketing and sales messages are not welcome – it is their doers and deliverers that she wants access to.
So I have read the recent Nimbus Ninety Market Trends Report 2013 with interest. It combines a survey of developments in the exploitation of contemporary ICT with some insightful case studies and interviews.
The survey respondents were “senior management level and above, end users of business technologies”. To qualify to join the survey, they “had to be responsible for the sign-off of new business technology implementations within their organisations or to have a significant influence over which technologies were chosen”.
My first observation of the respondents is that, in identifying the key business strategic objectives they were driving for, straightforward cost reduction did not figure. As a group the respondents were far more market-oriented, putting ‘increasing customer retention/increasing sales per customer’ at the top of their list of priorities.
My second point, as the impact of the cloud is integral to much of the survey, is that concerns about security appear to be waning as a barrier to implementation. There is a detailed section of the survey on identified risk factors, and security control comes way down the list.
Two developments indicate that the new era of enterprise business model transformation is really under way. First, these are the responses of people who are first and foremost business folk rather than IT functionaries. And second, as the editor of the report, Mark Young, rightly observes, the core message of the survey is of the impact of convergence, of interconnectedness. The survey respondents work in specialised worlds where it is an integration of a variety of technological capabilities that is being exploited, and being exploited by a diversity of new specialities.
Thus in one of the featured interviews, Nick Mawditt, the Global Director of Insight and Marketing at advertising agency Kinetic Worldwide talks of his team where marketing and technology are deeply integrated and the classic assembly of “marketers and researchers” has been replaced by “graphic designers, visualisation experts, data experts of multiple types, qualitative insight experts, communication experts and social media experts”. The creatives are the shapers of this new business modus operandi.
In an earlier column I used stories from a previous exercise of one of Emma Taylor’s ventures, the Big Data Group, to illustrate the point that, while the vendor community is certainly at work delivering impressive new capabilities, the real innovation in their exploitation is at the customer end, at enterprises deeply engaged with their business models, totally focused on winning through in the competitive realities of their markets.
That message radiates through this Nimbus Ninety survey – the interconnectness of the diversity of technologies now in play provides the platforms for enterprise innovation in the face of the disruptive forces at work in their markets. The message for the vendor community is clear: pull back on technology sell and focus on learning from customers’ innovative work in the heartlands of their markets.
This then frames the key issue. Colin Woodbridge, who heads up the IT strategy team at Telefonica, argues that “leaders with a genuine technology background will more rapidly seize, adopt and champion the raft of opportunities that are emerging”. Parallels, perhaps, with the observation of Jacqueline de Rojas, vice-president and general manager of CA Technology for UK and Ireland, that “digitally illiterate C-suites are damaging businesses”.
I would agree that digital literacy is certainly vital but I challenge the need for technology literacy at C-level. Rather it is enterprise C-suite literacy in technology’s potential for exploitation that now rules, as the Nimbus Ninety Survey 2013 amply demonstrates.