Archives for posts with tag: enterprise IT

Over the past 3 decades business related information technology has experienced three key era’s of growth. While the first two era’s are somewhat related, in that they both focused on productivity gains, the third era is quite a bit different.

Evolution of the Enterprise v02 MA 22Dec2015Below are what I consider the 5 key differentiator’s between the era of “the collaborative enterprise”, and the eras of “the productive employee” and “the productive enterprise”:

  • Focus on B2C vs. B2B: Social and mobile have an impact on both B2B and B2C, however arguably the greater impact is on how organizations engage with external constituents (i.e., customers or citizens) vs. internal constituents (i.e., partners or employees).
  • The agile enterprise: Build. Measure. Learn. When you are building a product for the consumer, its best to build lean and iterate vs. to build bulky and pray.
  • Centrality of UX: If you cannot impress a consumer in the first 30-60 seconds of interaction with a new mobile app, then you might have lost them forever. In this new world, UX is king.
  • Decentralized creativity: Ideas for new and interesting products and services, and suggestions for improvement, can come from internal or external constituents, not just top level management.
  • Driving top line growth: The primary focus of enhancing personal or organization productivity is cost minimization. While effective customer engagement can no doubt reduce cost, its biggest pull lies in driving new revenue.

Each of the above differences warrants a deeper look, and we will do so in future blog posts, but the bottom line is this – the productivity-related eras are giving way to a much more collaborative era.

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As an enterprise focussed technology consultant, you generally wait until you have something close to the “perfect” product with all the bells and whistles a v1.0  is expected to have prior to launching the product into a production environment. Truth be told there are some big differences between an enterprise product and the soft launch of a new Internet based product or service, not the least of which includes concerns around security and performance. The truth is, given that you are launching a product into an environment that has a concrete business need for it, there could be some significant negative business impact if the product fails to behave as expected. In the Internet startup space however, other than some market validation and A/B testing that you might have done, you don’t even know if anyone cares about your product. Chances are on day 1 other than your core team and a few early supporters nobody does. Hence its critical for you to get the product out as quickly as possible, and begin getting some real world engagement and quality feedback. This step is countless times more important at this stage of the venture, than building out the new cute widget that you think your product needs.

On July 16th we launched our product and invited a handful of users to begin using the product. Boy, are we glad that we made that decision. Waiting a few more weeks, and building out a few more features might have helped a bit, but would probably have hurt us more. Lets provide some concrete insight into what I mean by this. Our product, Neulantis, currently is being built with the objective of enabling designers, developers and domain experts to incubate their ideas on the platform, and to help them find a team to kick start their vision. All version 1.0 of the product had to enable this was:

  • the ability to create a profile
  • the ability to initiate a project and add required skills
  • the ability to provide project updates
  • the ability to follow or join a project

Some of the key features that were not included in version 1.0 included:

  • the ability to communicate with other users either through a messaging system or through a discussion forum on the platform
  • the ability for updates to be broadcast to project followers and team members

Now, while some might consider this to be a broken product, particularly with the inability to initiate conversations with others on the platform or go back and forth with project initiators, we believe that the core functionality required to convey the idea to people and begin true market validation was already there. Up to this point we had no concrete way of knowing if people even cared to post their ideas on the platform, however following the release when people began posting their project ideas we knew that this could work. This was the ultimate purpose of R1.0, to test our most basic assumptions – that people would be willing to post their project ideas, and other were willing to join or follow these projects.

On the same token, some will argue that we could theoretically have tested this assumption with surveys, basic mockups and splash pages, but the truth is at that point people are still not using the product, and from our perspective the sweet spot to truly test your most basic product assumptions lies somewhere between a splash page, and a fully functioning robust product. You need people using the product in some concrete way before your assumptions can be really validated. Further without an actual product, it very difficult for people to provide any quality feedback, and at this stage of the venture engaging your early user base, and providing them a sense of ownership is as critical as having them take the first step of registering on the platform. Since we launched our product, almost our entire development process has been guided by early user feedback, and hypothesis validation vs. master planning, and the product is better off because of this.

This is in response to an article on Forbes by John Mancini. John’s basic premise is that Enterprise IT is too slow, too bloated and generally unable to keep pace with the changes brought about by Social, Mobile and the Cloud. While there is some truth to his argument, that large Enterprise IT departments are reluctant to cede control, the truth is a lot more complex than that.

Most IT organization today are focussed on keeping systems up and running, through various integration touch points, and a myriad of custom and packaged enterprise applications. Large organizations have upwards of a 1000 enterprise apps, integration touch points and their corresponding infrastructure to support. It’s easy to suggest that IT doesn’t get it, however remember that business professionals are not the only ones that use social media, mobile and cloud, in terms of personal use IT professionals are probably the earlier adopters of these technologies. However someone has to worry about keeping the monster running, and that thankless job falls on IT.

All this being said, the points being made in the article are still valid, i.e. IT needs to evolve from worrying about systems integration, to worrying about data (the “information” part of IT) and adding business value through the wealth of data and information processing capabilities being made available through social, mobile and the cloud. But the road to this, particularly for large organizations is littered with vested interests, legacy apps, band-aids put together to keep apps up and running, and over a decade spent by most companies chasing wage arbitrage opportunities in IT.

I have been thinking a lot recently about some of the reasons why enterprise IT seems so antiquated in comparison to consumer IT. One of the key’s has to be the differences between the talent involved in both sectors. Enterprise IT dwarfs consumer IT in terms of global spend, but their approaches to talent acquisition cannot be more different.

In consumer IT you are constantly looking for the best resources possible to create a better product or service. Whatever your producing is your core product, and hence you want the best talent available to help you create it. Your product is your differentiator, your revenue generator.

Enterprise IT is largely a cost center, and like with any cost center the incentive inherently is towards minimization of spend. Hence while consumer IT chases talent, the key focus of enterprise IT over the last decade or so has been to take advantage of global wage arbitrage opportunities.

Now, while this difference would have been a purely theoretical observation even half a decade ago, the consumerization of IT has changed all that. For enterprise IT to even remain relevant it has to start looking at it’s approach to talent acquisition and more critically start to make a shift from being a cost center to being a clear revenue driver. Wether this means turning to big data, or creating innovative consumer-centric services enabled by IT, they have to do it fast, if not the end game will be hard fought, but the winner is clear.