Digital natives like Alibaba, Tencent, Amazon and Google have attained market dominance through imagination, speed and courage. Agility is in their DNA. Their cultural provenance makes them acutely aware that newness and prescience is their differentiator.
This also makes them slightly ‘paranoid.’ They know that they must always continue to challenge the status quo; keep surprising their customers and competitors; and fiercely guard their leading edge. They must sleep with one eye open.
Many highly successful digital businesses are already asking: ‘what’s next?’ What’s beyond bimodal IT, cloud services and DevOps? Will agile principles and practices, high performing teams and adaptive servant leadership sustain the successful digital business model through the next decade, as we shift our collective ‘strategic planning’ horizons to 2030?
It’s on the minds of the hyper-speed digital startups snapping at their heels, pioneering public sector digital services and organisations that are ‘digital chameleons’ with the courage, foresight and imagination to reinvent and reorient themselves to compete in disrupted markets.
Some of these ‘A-type’ enterprises are now performing at the highest aspirations of agile maturity, already operating beyond bimodal (two separate, coherent modes of IT delivery – one focused on stability and the other on agility).
To survive for more than a decade, or even dream of still being in existence by 2030, businesses need to keep the revolution on fire within. They must continually challenge status quo to sustain their lead; attract and retain stellar talent; compel the following of loyal customers and partners; and keep on generating new ideas and products that surprise their markets.
What are the implications for post-bimodal delivery, talent, leadership and innovation platforms? The answer is not certain, but will evolve through nurturing enterprise diversity, humanism, anthropology and creativity to complement their mastery of science and technology. The economics of connections augmented by human aspiration and imagination.
CIOs and their teams should think like futurists – to look back, extrapolate economic and societal mega trends, and creatively develop scenarios for the future of IT in digital business.
Futurist thinking is not science fiction, but an extrapolation of movements we see around us today. ‘The future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed’ is a popular explanation.
The speed at which new products, services and enterprises can rise and flourish in a connected digital economy demonstrates that you probably can’t be too imaginative, nor too provocative, when creating possible scenarios for your business model.
Stretch a long way and then work backwards to the reality of today. What are the gaps? What are the social, political, natural and economic catalysts that would take your enterprise in one direction or another? Where are the forks – decision points – in the road? What might your business model look like?
The digital business ecosystem in the Internet of Everything, powered by algorithms, will be complex and networked. The most compelling digital ecosystems for consumers and communities will be simple – yet under the covers will be very sophisticated in understanding the minds, drivers and desires of its constituent users.
Look to the successful social enterprise environments for clues. The creator of WeChat says: “it takes a lot of work to keep it simple.”
Take account of sensor-enabled people and things; smart machines and robotics; and predictive algorithms in a world where regulations and political positions will be disrupted by new digital business behaviours and consumer expectations.
Uber is testing legal constraints around the world right now. Facebook has become a dominant medium for communications in one decade, an archive of every nuance of daily human activity.
Try out some wild or implausible scenarios. Imagine that in the future there is no ‘IT’. No CIO. IT is invisible. Everyone is their own CIO curating their digital experience. However, imagination and design will continue to flourish, enabling human endeavour.
Are radical (enough) options and locations being considered as you explore future options? Are you considering locations and economies that may offer more opportunity to be a first mover or new sources of talent and resources? Consider some emerging African economies such as Kenya, or countries that are unstable now, but may settle during the next decade such as Syria (post-ISIS). Think of countries aspiring to develop and compete – New Guinea? Estonia? Cuba?
Are some big seemingly unsolvable problems being considered by your IT teams? Tesla aspires to space travel. Apple is making moves into transport. You may not solve ‘world hunger,’ but the stimulation of trying to tackle seemingly impossible business challenges creatively may yield some interesting and very plausible ideas, which may just turn out to be unique and/or transformative.
The business models and enterprise cultures that digital ‘followers’ aspire to today, are already history for digital leaders. To create the future, digital aspirants and current leaders need to inject even more creativity into experimenting and evolving their infrastructure, delivery, talent, leadership and innovation platforms.
CIOs in competitive enterprises cannot stand still. As the pace of change in the global digital economy continues to accelerate, new business ideas and technologies need to be tested, rejected or transferred to production, at an ever-faster pace. They need to find the time and the talent to continually reimagine and reorganise IT to sustain the ever-morphing digital course.
Sleep well, but with one eye open.
Jenny Beresford is a research director with Gartner's CIO Advisory team. Previously, she has served as a CIO in global enterprises, held VP and GM roles in consulting and technology firms, worked as a hands-on enterprise agile coach, an innovation lead and a digital transformation director. Ms Beresford will be speaking on ‘Beyond Bimodal: Toward a Sustainable Digital Business Model’ and other topics at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2016 on the Gold Coast, 24-27 October.
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