The game is changing
- 02 April, 2013 22:33
We are at the dawn of a new era where the CIO and the IT function play a central role in creating value, says Ross Dawson, chairman, AHT Group and futurist.
But how can today's CIOs get there? Looking at the present landscape, we are experiencing exponential growth in bandwidth, processing power, storage, mobility and interfaces, Dawson says.
When the Cray 2 supercomputer was launched in 1985, it was the fastest machine in the world. At peak performance it could execute 1.9 GFLOPS (floating-point operations per second). In comparison, the latest iPad has 72 GFLOPS, he says.
"We are literally putting supercomputers in the hands of our staff and our customers. They have more computing power than almost every organisation in New Zealand had in the mid-90s. This is transformation."
When it comes to mobile data, New Zealand is ahead of the US and Western Europe in uptake of smartphones.
In addition to this, new interfaces, such as Google Glass, are moving beyond the keyboard and mouse.
According to Dawson, the single biggest trend in social change is expectations.
"We expect more on every front -- in excellence, opportunity, flexibility, openness and beauty," he says.
There are big changes ahead for IT departments. The walls of the organisation are coming down, as information is moving across boundaries with customers, partners and regulators, but at the same time, security demands are increasingly greater, he says. The power is shifting to the users and their expectations, and the IT function is expected to respond fast. On top of this, there are ever-present budget constraints and demands of environmental efficiency.
These shifts create new opportunities for the IT function, for example in decision-oriented analytics, such as crowd-sourcing analytics. Integration with marketing is another opportunity, he says. Gartner has predicted that in the next few years, chief marketing officers will spend more on technology than CIOs.
"Clearly, we need marketing and technology to be richly integrated. CMOs and CIOs need to work hand-in-hand."
Another opportunity to seize is around reconfigurable processes.
"The world changes so fast that organisations must have the ability to change the business processes on the turn of a dime if they see an opportunity to do things better."
The CIO of tomorrow must possess visionary leadership, says Dawson. Where do you want your role and the IT function to go? What is the value you want to create? Set a path to get there and get the alignment and support for that, he says. Engagement with the board, the top senior team and investors is at the heart.
Finding new ways to bring value to the customer
Every year, Tennis Australia expands from being a SMB to a large global enterprise during the two weeks of Australian Open. Normally, the organisation employs 250 staff in Melbourne -- during the tournament it employs 5000. The IT team grows from 20 people year-round to 85, says Samir Mahir, Tennis Australia CIO.
The team has to adjust to a huge spike in data generation and traffic without missing a beat.
"We pretty much multiply our load by 100, but if there is a big match the volume can go way beyond that in one day," says Mahir.
The organisation uses a private cloud solution. "It works for us -- it's scalable and secure and we don't need it for the rest of the year. It's pretty much on demand," he says.
This year, Tennis Australia also used IBM Dynamic Cloud Provisioning, which helps to predict spikes in online traffic and scales up in anticipation of the demand. It's using multiple sources of information, including social media volumes, he says. While it used to take about three hours to provision an additional physical server, a web server can now be ready to go in five minutes.
Australianopen.com attracted over 15.5 million unique visitors this year. The fans are savvy, he says. They are expecting quality and in-depth information. "If you don't provide them that they will go and follow the event somewhere else."
"If you can find the ways to keep them engaged, you will meet your goals, for sure," says Mahir. "The experience is what keeps them coming back. They will promote the event for you if they have a great experience, whether is onsite or online."
Tennis Australia also caters to around 300 journalists and broadcasters. For the media, there is an IPTV solution that generates statistics, results and scores. All games are streamed live in the media room and also recorded.
But it's not just the fans and media that demand and consume information -- players and coaches are heavy users of technology too, in particular performance analysis, Mahir says.
The so-called 'SlamTracker' tool is used by fans, media, players and coaches alike. It analyses over eight years of Grand Slam data -- more than 41 million data points -- looking at player style, results, weaknesses and strengths. This analysis gives you a very good idea of what players need to do to do well in a match, says Mahir.
Tennis Australia embraces social media, but with ongoing education. The organisation has a young workforce -- the average age is 27. "If you block them you are going to lose half of your staff."
This year, Mahir wanted to make sure the organisation really leveraged social media. Can this information help with planning and prediction? The team found that a simple piece of information, such as a 'like' or a tweet about a certain player or match, can all of a sudden become immensely important.
If you start seeing millions of them coming in, trends emerge. And if you tie that information to the infrastructure, you are able to predict spikes, he says. The editorial team can now also start gearing the content on the website towards what people are talking about on social media sites.
"We are able to customise the experience based on what the public is talking about," Mahir says. "Now we are bringing value to the consumer."
Australian Open 2013 statistics
" Over nine million tweets analysed, mentioning the 2013 players
" The Facebook page grew to a weekly reach of 6.1 million
" The iPhone app increased 39 percent to nearly 968,000 downloads
" The Android app was up almost 400 percent this year
Third platform -- and beyond
What IDC calls the third platform -- mobile, social, big data and cloud -- is well and truly here. According to Ullrich Loeffler, IDC, we have reached the point where these technologies have become mainstream.
By 2018, 50 percent of business executives expect the primary function of the CIO to be a business innovator and a business partner, says Loeffler. In reverse, that means that the other 50 percent still expects the CIO to look after cost, risk and keeping the lights on in the datacentre, he says.
According to a local IDC survey, 68 percent of CIOs have moderate to no input on business strategy. Sixty percent of line of business stakeholders believe their CIO does not consult them regularly on their business needs.
"We have a long way to go," says Loeffler.
But view this as motivation, he encourages -- there is an opportunity here to take up.
Loeffler finished his presentation with some essential questions for 2013:
" Are you and your team understanding the urgency to act? Competition is moving ahead, fast.
" Is your organisation mastering the new scale and diversity?
" Are you prepared for the death of the dedicated IT department? IT will become an extension of the business units.
" Are you expanding connections with line of business executives? They will have more than 50 percent of the investment in technology moving forward.
" Is your team following and playing a key role with the data? Many organisations are still focusing on the transactions rather than what is being transacted -- how can this information be unleashed for business decisions?
" Is your whole team understanding the context to business outcome?
Ross Dawson, Samir Mahir and Ullrich Loeffler presented at CIO New Zealand's 'Tomorrow-Ready CIO' forum in Auckland sponsored by IBM.
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