IT/Strategy Alignment Checklist: 3. Learn What Is Available

While immersion in the subject of IT can be intimidating for some executives, a rudimentary understanding of evolving developments is an essential responsibility of all senior leadership.

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With an understanding and assessment of the existing technology, a company’s leadership must familiarize itself with the emerging technology trends that are reshaping business strategies. Unquestionably, many business executives fear that they may struggle to grasp sophisticated technology topics. However, leaving it to IT alone to evaluate these trends is shirking executive responsibility.

Here we present a few IT trends worth studying as factors that should influence strategic thinking, and will continue to be so for some years to come. While immersion in the subject of IT can be intimidating for some executives, a rudimentary understanding of evolving developments, such as those outlined below, is an essential responsibility of all senior leadership. After all, a limited knowledge of the possibilities will only limit your organization’s ability to remain vital and strong.

Internet of Things: Everyday items are embedded with computer devices that can be connected and fully integrated with the Web. Examples include wireless sensor networks used in “smart home” monitoring, RFID [link definition] –tagged consumer goods used in inventory control and real-time camera feeds from stop lights involved in traffic flow management. The physical world is quickly becoming system-enabled, allowing it to be fused with the digital world. Executives should consider the implications for this trend on their organizations.

Mobile Computing: From tablets to smart phones, people increasingly rely on their mobile devices to assist them in managing their lives. Businesses are already building apps that accommodate the needs of their mobile-minded customers. The next phase of evolution will demand computer device independence, enabling an uninterrupted computing experience as we move from device to device throughout our daily lives. How will the organizations that we are responsible for adapt to the continued evolution of mobile computing?

Cloud Computing: There is a variety of cloud computing solutions available, including:

  • Software as a Service (SaaS)—SaaS is a software distribution model in which automated systems are hosted by a service provider and made available to customers over a network. The SaaS vendor is responsible for upgrades and troubleshooting, and commonly provides the infrastructure and backup/recovery capabilities as well.
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)—Data storage, hardware, servers and networking equipment are provided to the customer on a per-use basis by the IaaS vendor, who holds the equipment and is responsible for housing, running and maintaining it.
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS)—PaaS is a service delivery model that provides the capability to lease the hardware, operating systems, storage and network capacity over the Internet. It allows customers to rent virtualized servers and associated services needed to develop, test and run applications.
  • Business Process as a Service (BPaaS)—Procurement, payment, processing and payroll are just a few of the business functions that can be supported by BPaaS vendors, who provide the necessary infrastructure so that organizations no longer need to staff and perform the activities in-house.

Cloud computing has the potential to dramatically change the way organizations use computer technology, replacing the need to buy and maintain computing systems and hardware with a much more cost-effective, on-demand model, similar in nature to the ways in which utilities provide water and electricity to their customers.

Social Media: There’s no doubt that social media is here to stay. Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn manage communities that comprise millions of people worldwide. Social media is too big to ignore. The challenge for most enterprises is determining how best to harness the potential. As executives, we must devise strategies that allow our organizations to leverage social media in order to optimize our presence, generate product and brand awareness, enhance employee engagement, improve customer relations, augment product/service development, and supplement staffing efforts.

Gamification: Gamification refers to the use of game thinking and mechanics in software design in order to improve the ways in which automated applications are used and the methods by which people engage with technology. Most organizations intend to leverage gamification for the purposes of marketing, customer retention, productivity measurement and training. We are already seeing firms such as American Express, Hertz and Starbucks use it as underpinnings to their latest loyalty programs. We will need to get a handle on this trend in order to manage it for competitive gain.

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of seven articles on IT/strategy alignment adapted from The Executive Checklist, by James M. Kerr. Click below to read other installments.

1. Define Where Technology Fits

2. Know What You Have

4. Separate Table Stakes from Competitive Advantage

5. Mind the Gaps to Reimagine the Future

For more information, visit www.executive-checklist.com.

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James M. Kerr // James M. Kerr is a partner at BlumShapiro Consulting in West Hartford, Conn., and a strategy thought leader who has worked with clients from both the carrier and vendor segments of the insurance industry.  His latest book, The Executive Checklist, is now available.  You can contact him at [email protected].

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