6 emerging solutions to Information Provenance


Information provenance has become an absolutely critical issue. In a world of disinformation, AI-generated content, and abuse of intellectual property, we need to know where information has come from and its validity.

There are a range of solutions under development, both technological and human.

In the slides below I present 6 emerging solutions that can help move us to a world where we can verify information provenance and the quality and ownership of information, including a wide range of examples of the leading initiatives.
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World building and venture capital


I had lunch today with my old mate Phil Morle, Partner in deep tech venture capital firm Main Sequence Ventures. We talked about how to take entrepreneurs and leaders into thinking beyond obvious linear extrapolations from the present. 

We agree that even the next few years, let alone the next decade, are likely to be absolutely extraordinary. Today, any startup founder’s business premise needs to be framed from a vision of what the future will look like, not on what the world is like today. The success of tomorrow’s billion dollar companies will be built on opportunities that are still emerging.

I described some of the futurist tools that I use with business leaders, such as deconstructing the forces that shape and reshape trends, “backcasting” to explore possible pathways to the future, and various scenario planning methodologies, simple and more complex. 

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How the integrated enterprise shifts us from Big Data to Small and Wide Data


In perusing Gartner’s Top 10 Data and Analytics Trends for 2021 it struck me that the most important meta-theme was integration.

The last decades of enterprise technology could be viewed as shifting from monolithic – and in large organizations almost inevitably siloed – computing to richly integrated platforms, though that journey is far from complete in most companies.
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Human-technology interfaces will drive our future: here are four innovative new wearables from Google Research


One of my oldest and most central themes in my work as a futurist is interfaces. How humans can and will interact with technology will shape not just our future, but indeed who are.

We have only relatively recently begun to move beyond keyboard, mouse and screen interfaces to voice and a handful of early-adopter gesture controls.

The tech giants well understand the importance of providing the most compelling interface.
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Quick introduction to live-streaming software for keynote speakers and presenters


The intent of The Virtual Excellence Show is to explore and share how to do things well in virtual space.

Professional speakers and business presenters now all need to learn how to be excellent at virtual presentations. Live-streaming software can be invaluable in doing high=quality presentations relatively easily.

In our first tutorial I provide a brief introduction to live-streaming software for keynote speakers, presenters, and executives, including:

  • What is live-streaming software?
  • The leading live-streaming software platforms
  • A quick user’s guide to the functionality of OBS, the leading live-streaming platform

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CDO: Consultant, Fund Raiser, Change Agent, Technologist


Time will tell if the CDO is the White Knight, or next Career-Is-Over Victim

It’s still early days for the Chief Digital Officer (CDO) role. At first glance, it might seem to be a rebadging of the CIO’s or CTO’s job, but maybe it’s something quite different, possibly more like a business architect or transformation consultant. Is it a permanent or transient role?

Here’s a perspective on what CDO might do, drawn from my experience in a traditional bricks-and-mortar firm, with over 100 years of history:

The CDO lives and breathes the business vision: he or she shapes and re-shapes the vision and in parallel, makes it reality

The CDO keeps a finger on the pulse of the current business ‘Center of Gravity’ and is ready to adapt to changing business circumstances.

The CDO must be comfortable with uncertainty and, at the same time, be able to establish projects that deliver incremental change; he or she is always searching for ‘no regrets’ increments that act as proof-points for hypotheses and strategies. Such projects are designed to cope with the many Rumsfeldian ‘Known Unknowns and Unknown Unknowns’, the blockers for decision-making, and the often quoted excuses for inactivity.

The CDO’s projects and programs are designed, from the outset, with regular course-correction in mind. The CDO must also be prepared to make more radical changes in direction: pivoting strategy to take advantage of emerging opportunities or combat new threats.

The CDO role walks the fine line between management consultant and technologist

The CDO is a master of business change first, and a technologist second. That said the CDO must be adept at spotting useful technology-based patterns, and encourage experimentation: new uses and sources of data, the tools to manipulate or visualize it, and new technical design patterns that suit the highly distributed, autonomous digital world.

The CDO is a passionate fundraiser for, nimble, ‘safe-fail’, projects that encourage bold ideas and nurture innovation.

The CDO is also a champion of architectures that design in the expectation of change from the outset. The days of the Big Up Front Design are over. Digital strategies must embrace the notion of organic, emergent behavior. CDOs with an appreciation of economics, complexity science, and systems theory will have a distinct advantage. They understand that the digitally enabled world is, by nature, adaptive. The old, deterministic, thinking behind traditional ‘ERP-like’ systems, are too fragile, ponderous, and closed-loop in nature. They simply don’t work in a world of massive-scale dynamic interactions between people and their digital agents.

The CDO thinks about: values, trust, services, information, and technology – in that order

The CDO should be able to deliver concise distillations of complex matters. He or she must be a great communicator: an engaging and ‘trust-winning’ storyteller and consummate networker. CDOs don’t necessarily have to be the smartest person in the room. They surround themselves with a strong network of innovators and experts. They possess strong facilitation and active-listening skills, they nurture and amplify ideas and insights from others.

The CDO assesses the impact of the democratization of data, information and knowledge

Today, everyone in the business has a duty to become tech-savvy; those who aren’t will soon become sidelined. So a large part of the CDO’s role is as a coach in technology-literacy. He or she also encourages his colleagues to think about the ‘What’ before the ‘How’ to avoid the rush-to-solution pitfall.

CDOs are also naturals at abstraction who can focus attention on the value-delivering services required. Above all, they champion the dissemination of data, information, and knowledge, internally and externally. This requires regular context switching between stakeholders’ perspectives: those of customers, shareholders, regulators and other ‘duty-of-care’ communities.

‘Going Digital’ affects the whole organization: front, mid and back office. The CDO is a passionate silo-buster; a joiner-of-dots. He or she has a strong grasp of Enterprise Architecture and how to balance pragmatism and short-term goals with the longer-range: stakeholder values, organizational & technology structure, business services portfolio, and their lifetime Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). He works hand-in-hand with the CEO, CMO, COO, CIO and other C-levels to minimize ‘initiative’ misalignment.

What the CDO isn’t

Maybe the best way to describe the CDOs role is to say what it isn’t:

  • A technology cost-center director
  • A marketing/communications director
  • A corporate strategist
  • A project/program director
  • An IT architect
  • A compliance specialist
  • A cyber security specialist
  • An industrial engineer/BPM expert
  • A business analyst
  • A data scientist
  • A social media/web/mobile channel expert.

The CDO must have a well-rounded knowledge of the above disciplines. He or she, however, works with subject experts to make business change happen: herding them all towards the new digital Business-as-Usual.

The CDO is expected to see the world through a fresh pair of eyes and be an agent of change; he weaves ‘digital’ mindfulness into the fabric of the business and its customers and suppliers. His or her mission is to implant, and then grow, an enterprise-wide, data-rich nervous system, which will allow the business to compete by making best use of its digital and physical assets.

I’m sure there are many CIOs and CTOs out there who would claim they’re already acting in that role. In the end, of course, the label doesn’t matter – it’s all about the outcomes.

The question is: will the aspirations of this role prove too challenging for ‘CDOs’ within traditional business? Will the brave individuals in this role become yet another victim of ‘career-is-over’ mentality born from businesses’ frustration with all things ‘IT’?

Business leaders and managers must wake-up to the fact that their world is now digital. They can’t expect an individual to somehow sprinkle ‘digital foo-foo dust’ over the business and believe all will be well. Those companies that are so-called born-digital (Amazon, Google and others) get this. They know that everyone in the business, from the CEO down, is in part a ‘CDO’.

I suspect the CDO position might indeed be transitory. Those companies that truly understand the scale of the transformation will succeed by embedding ‘digital’ in the corporate mindset, and most importantly within the decision-making of the executive team. Those that don’t, will play lip-service to the role until they fall back into old habits: ‘it’s that IT guy’s fault’ blame-game (regardless of how many times we say the CDO isn’t an ‘IT’ role).

Or worse, they wake up too late; asleep while the world changed, their customers took their digital agents to play elsewhere.

This article draws on the author’s experience of working, over the past 8 months, with a ‘Digital Transformation’ director in the Energy sector.

Have the business leaders and managers in your organisation taken ownership of their digital environment? Or can we expect the CDO (or a “CDO like” role) to become a permanent fixture in many organisations?

IT Is a General Business Skill, Not a Specialist Skill


The IT monopoly is over, and managers must now be responsible for their technology decisions

Technology is woven so tightly into the fabric of business today that it’s risky to make a judgment call without a firm grasp of both the technology and business issues involved. Managers are struggling with the sudden rise of the empowered consumer, forcing them to experiment with new tools and new technologies as they race after consumers who are skipping across channels and between times. Managers are also smashing together supply chains to support pop-up stores or, along with digital product development processes, to speed the introduction of new products and services.

While these managers have a firm grasp of the business issues involved, technology (for many of them) is something that they’ve used, not something they’ve managed. There’s a difference between having experience using solutions, and in understanding the opportunities and risks inherent in the technology that underpins those solutions.

The success of all businesses now rests on their ability to astutely use technology to engage customers and nimbly craft solutions. Managers that can successfully straddle both business and technology are thriving. Those that can’t are struggling, and their firms are suffering with them.

CIOs, too, are struggling to define a role for themselves and their IT department in an age when everyone considers themselves to be an IT expert. However, there is a clear need that remains unfilled in many businesses. Someone, some group, needs work across the business and bring sense to the chaos.

While the IT department can no longer claim a monopoly on IT knowledge, it is still the group best positioned to work with the lines of business, across the organization, helping stakeholders to step back and see the broader context, and to ensure that the solutions the lines of business are using enable the firm to meet its compliance and reporting obligations.

Technology is not someone else’s problem

I’ve heard more than one CEO claim that “the reason I hired a CIO is so that I don’t have to worry about IT”. In their view technology was something to be dealt with by technologist, allowing the CEO (and the rest of the C-level) to get on with the challenge of running the business.

The most recent version of this seems to be the announcement of a newly hired Chief Digital Officer (CDO), someone who will come in and transform the business, tossing out all the old and crufty non-digital stuff and replacing it with shiny new digital stuff. McKinsey is so bullish on the idea of hiring a CDO that they published a recent report called “Bullish on digital” which concludes that firms need to “Find the right digital leaders. Leadership is the most decisive factor for a digital program’s success or failure”.

Setting aside the question of why the CIO or CTO isn’t leading the transformation, the rise of the CDO hides a bigger problem that executives need to address.

Hiring a CDO might be a symptom, rather than the cure

Technology is now a general business skill, and not a specialist skill like it was in the past. Going forward, all executives will need a solid understanding of technology, along with how it can be used to create opportunities, and its limitations. If not, then they should find a replacement who does.

We live in the age of the empowered consumer. Consumers have grabbed control of their relationship with merchants. Wielding their smartphone with both thumbs they can buy what they want, when and where they want, and obtain the best price. They can also use social media to peer into a firm’s operations, and they’ll take their business elsewhere if they find something objectionable.

Firms are scrambling to respond as they watch their traditional revenue streams leak into other channels. A key strategy is to take a holistic and customer-centric approach that enables the firm to follow consumers as they skip between places, times and trends. Doing this means investing in programs who’s benefits are not easily qualified. These programs are either enabled by, or rely heavily on, technology.

We don’t have “digital programs”: we have “programs”, since they all use digital technology. Similarly we don’t want “leaders” and separate “digital leaders”. We need “leaders” who understand both the business and the digital worlds, as the two are the same.

Amazon, for example, was born digital. Technology is not treated as something separate from business; interactive and social media are commingled with traditional media, and the merchandising team is responsible for wholesale, stores and web.

How we measure value has changed

Managers trying to paper over knowledge and experience gaps by hiring in the expertise will soon find that it’s not enough. The person accountable for a firm’s (or a department’s) performance will need to understand the trade-offs they’re making. Increasingly these trade-offs cannot be captured by return on investment (ROI) or net present value (NPV) calculations, as the key factors in the trade-off are intangibles. Tim Cook has even famously disparaged “bloody ROI” when he explained at a shareholders meeting that Apple does “a lot of things for reasons besides profit motive”.

Trying to make judgment a call without an intuitive understanding of the trade-off being made is fraught with danger. If the factors that will sway the decision are not easily quantifiable then it can be challenging (if not impossible) to separate the technical and business expertise.

Management need to straddle business and technology

Management, from line management on the shop floor up to the executive and the board, need to have both a firm understanding of the business the firm is in, and the technology that is woven into the fabric of the business. In the lower ranks the focus is on identifying opportunities and solutions that can drive up firm performance. Higher up, the executive through to the board will make the judgment calls on where to direct resources. They must also be capable of defending these judgment calls to the owners.

Hiring in technical expertise will allow a firm to modernize its infrastructure and operating model. It will not, however, solve the more significant challenge of constantly evolving the firm’s business model in response to the evolution of the technology environment around it. Companies that have made this cultural shift do not have, nor will they probably ever hire, a CDO. Nor will they see IT as something they hire a CIO to worry about. Younger firms, such as Amazon, achieved this by being born digital. Older firms, such as Burberry, have hired or developed digitally savvy executives.

IT is not the high priest of technology anymore

As I’ve pointed out before, the role of the IT department is not carved in stone. The growth of empower consumers has also given rise to the empowered manager, a manager who understands technology, knows what they want, and (thanks to Software as a Service) has the ability to source it without the help of the IT department.

IT is a general business skill, and not the specialist skill it was in the past.

However, business, your business, still needs someone to play the role of intellectual bumblebee. Someone who can buzz between stakeholders and cross pollinate ideas, and someone who can ensure that the parts operate as a coherent whole.

The IT department can no longer monopolize IT knowledge. Nor can it expect to monopolize IT management. (Shared services have a patchy track record at best.) The lines of business have grabbed control of the technology they use, which is as it should be. It’s the lines of business that have the problems which need solving and – as was pointed out earlier – solving these problems will require knowledge of both business and technology. They’re also choosing to use service providers that operate outside the four walls of the traditional IT department.

A new relationship between IT and business

The IT department, however, is the group best positioned to work with the lines of business, working across the organization, and make sense of the chaos.

Business stakeholders need help stepping back and seeing the bigger picture, and to understand the broader implications, of the technology choices that they are making. It’s great to improve consumer engagement and shift more product, but this needs to be done in an environment where solutions deployed by the the various lines of business work together, and not at cross purposes, and in a way that allows the firm to meet its compliance and reporting obligations.

While the IT department needs to stop acting like an IT monopoly, the flip side is that managers in the line of business need to also take responsibility for the technology decisions they make.

How far along the journey is your organisation? Is technology still something only the CIO worries about about? Has your organisation started to try and transform into a digital business? Or are you already there, and technology is a general business skill?


The Gamification Revelation


Why are you sitting there working when you should be playing games?

Gamification has become big business since 2010, leveraging the success of marketing platforms built to grow customer engagement and brand loyalty to tackle problems inside the firm. So what is it?

Gamification is a broad term to describe the application of gaming mechanics to everyday problem solving, analysis and discovery. People across generations have been using games to compete, learn, communicate and solve problems. What has changed in the last few years has been the penetration of powerful mobile devices and a generation of technology users who cannot recall life before the internet. People are actively participating in computer games, complete with challenges, rewards, cooperation and competition. This acceptance has been fundamental to establishing gamification methods as a viable approach to problem solving and insight generation. But how does this apply in the workplace?

Organizations are turning to gamification to gain consumer insights and solve complex problems. Traditional methods such as surveys, focus groups and data analysis have their limits. These approaches are typically closed systems which impose limits on the evidence being gathered and the results that are generated.

Gamification offers a different approach that is rooted in human behavior, motivation, inclusion and creativity. The CIO of the future needs to consider the practical application of gamification alongside their toolkit of hard technologies, services and skills. With the worldwide gaming industry forecast to exceed US$80 billion in revenue from 2015, one thing is very clear – playtime is paying off.

An organization is a collection of interacting social groups. There are sub-cultures, behavioral norms and systems of operation that exist through and around any business. For a CIO this typically means the dilemma of satisfying some parties and disappointing others. This is usually because of finite resources rather than disobliging intent. Providing solutions based on gamification solves this problem by tapping into these social enterprises and the human emotive qualities available within them. It is a way of harnessing the energy and imagination of people who are driven by reward, social inclusion, peer competition and collaboration. More importantly, it draws on the influencing power of normative behaviors.

However, gamification is not a panacea for every business problem. If a problem is well defined, repeatable and has a linear logical solution path, then there is likely to be a practical, established method of solving it. If it does not meet these criteria then traditional approaches are unlikely to produce a satisfactory result. It is a matter of being pragmatic and choosing the best approach for the problem at hand.

Games people play

Where to start? The type and structure of gamification platforms is broad, clever and often deeply engrossing. Consider the following game types:

Recognition – If you have ever completed a ‘Captcha’ or similar text recognition challenge, then you have played a recognition game. The outward intent of the game is to prove that you are human (also known as a Turing test). It takes advantage of the faculty that humans have to derive recognizable shapes – in this case a string of letters and numbers – despite them being skewed, incomplete or with significant background ‘noise’. Behind the scenes, Captcha style games have been used to perform character and word recognition on scanned documents that are unable to be recognized by computerized optical character recognition systems. For example, if 90% of people recognize a twisted character as an “h”, it is likely to be an “h”.

Creative – British media agency The Bank of Creativity taps into the imaginative, witty and sometimes outrageous minds of the Twitterverse with their regular “One Minute Briefs” competition. This combination of crowdsourcing, community and creativity is game playing on a worldwide scale. Participants are asked to submit (via Twitter) a rapidly produced advertisement on the topic of the moment, with the entries scrutinized and voted on by a jury of peers. The results are often hilarious, intelligent and nail the intent of the brief in a matter of hours. It is lightweight gaming that is 99% human and 1% technology. It also provides a model that can be used over internal social media across a large enterprise. Traditional creative processes cannot compete. Want to instantly tap into the imagination of thousands of people across your organization when a client throws you a creative problem to solve? Put out the call and watch the results roll in.

Optimization – Waze takes commuting to a new level by combining the insights of drivers – both passive and active – to provide a real-time, location-aware traffic navigation service. Drivers are provided a platform that extends beyond simple turn-by-turn navigation. It takes into account the speed of other drivers, user-lodged reports of accidents or hazards, and also allows for the editing of maps and routes to reflect recent changes. Posting alerts and logging miles earns experience points, increases the users’ credibility rank, and attracts gratitude from other drivers. The result is an optimized journey time that is both faster and more accurately calculated than non-gaming methods. It is a method of gaining real-time, contextual telemetry on a complex system compounded by ever changing speed and congestion. If applied to logistics or emergency services, it would save money and more importantly save lives.

Hunting – EteRNA, a crowdsourcing game that allows players to fold RNA combinations that make up ribosomes, has been shown to beat supercomputers running similar algorithms for both speed and accuracy. Not only does this leverage the human capacity for pattern aesthetics – it also means that the players are able to describe their problem-solving workflows, which can then inform future algorithm design. Back in the lab, this means more rapid drug development and more effective clinical trials.

Economic – Game theory has literally been part of economics since the early 18th century as a tool for the study of strategic decision making. Massively multi-player online role playing games, such as World of Warcraft and EVE are a step beyond the logical forms and decision trees that typify economic game playing. They are a true representation of incredibly complicated, chaotic systems that generate and destroy value. Their impact is not purely of interest to economic theorists who analyze the cross over between in-game and real-life economics. In many cases, an online universe simulation may exceed, in value or complexity, the gross national product of countries. There is no better way to combine and experiment with supply and demand, consumer behavior and the art of war. Just be careful of corporate pirates – they exist both online, and in real life.

Play by your rules

In your organization, go looking for a problem to solve through gamification. Start small. Find an executive peer who will champion this with you – someone who has an unusual problem at hand, and is willing to have some fun solving it. Begin with defining the problem and then work backwards to ideate how you’d go about solving it. Discuss the examples listed above to get your creative juices flowing. Be experiential – play some games yourself, and encourage your team to do the same. When designing the game play, keep in mind the problem to be solved, the data you want to collect, the target segment of people you want to attract, and the intrinsic rewards that will keep players coming back for more. Make it fun, and ensure it is healthily competitive.

If the CEO drops by and asks why all of your team are playing games, tell them it’s OK – they’re hard at work solving problems through gamification. If they’re still not convinced, then challenge them to a game. They didn’t get to be CEO without being competitive. Besides… what’s a good game without a Boss to fight at the end?

Does your organization use gamification to solve problems or gather data? What are some of the best examples you’ve seen?


Inside-Out versus Outside-In


Providing the social tools and IT environment the front line needs

In my last article, What to Do When Your Business Model Changes, I concluded by stating I would define the emerging focus and need for ‘platforms’ to provision and manage the use of technology within an enterprise in a later article. However, first it is necessary to add one more demand, or requirement, that is linked to the change in business models and relates to another of my articles, Free Your Users (or They Will Free Themselves). The subtitle for that piece is The Vexed Issue of Social Media and BYOD in the Workplace, which leads to this article about the biggest driver for change – people – and the manner in which they are using technology to work in new ways.

An important element in the article on business models that I want to build on is the concept of “Inside-Out” versus “Outside-In”. These terms define the difference between internal business processes focused on supporting some degree of external web access, Inside-Out, versus externally focused cloud, mobility solutions, apps, and of course, social tools (all which need restricted internal access), Outside-In.

After over twenty years of optimizing internal processes and workflows, the manner in which people work inside the business is fully understood. Linking the business activities of the back office with the Inside-Out focus of technology helps to bring technology and business together.

The disruptive technologies of cloud-based applications, delivered through browsers and apps to a variety of devices, are all part of the external environment and linked to the role of front office. New business models are focused on taking these external capabilities and redefining how to find, win and deliver new forms of competitive offerings.

Front office environments are focused on people who create value through external interactions to win and deliver business, people working Outside-In. This is unlike the back office where the focus is on process removing people and cost.

Outside-In technologies enable the people in the front office to find and share the resource they need to improve their performance within these new business models. “The Future of Work” is a term used to describe the manner in which these new technologies are deployed in new optimal ways.

Much of the confusion about the increasing use of social tools, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs, and trend to bypass the IT department to use external cloud solutions, arises from the disconnect between the Outside-In work practices of the front office and the Inside-Out practices of IT’s traditional back office deployments.

Understanding this and refocusing on the new working practices of the front office is a necessary break through in reacting to the inevitable changes already under way in most enterprises.

Whether it’s called BYOD, Shadow IT, Business-Technology, or Consumer IT, there is a common change in the younger generation from around 35 years of age down who have grown up with technology and see it as a lifestyle tool. This is markedly different to the generations before whose relationship with IT was most likely forced on them, directed to use a locked down enterprise PC with a narrow selection of relatively unfriendly monolithic applications. The difference in approach to technology can be broken down into nine common attitudes to different aspects of work.


Source: Adapted from IBM report ‘Driving Workforce Productivity by Enabling Social Connection’ (June 2009)

Of course nobody is an exact fit to all the nine behaviors but this table goes a long way towards explaining some of the internal tensions in an enterprise.

Front office roles tend to employ younger people whilst senior people controlling the enterprise through its back office processes tend to be in the older two groups.

Most of the senior management will have reached their current level through the business model revolution called Business Process Re-Engineering during mid 1990s when Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) was developed to make integrate the disruptive technology capabilities that networked PCs introduced into the mainstream of the business.

Business process engineering and the redesign of a firm’s business processes, workflows and the technology that supported them highlighted the need for a new form of enterprise communication along the new processes, the introduction of email! The redesigned business processes deliberately crossed and broke up the old departmental management structure substituting a process based management structure in its place. Email was seized on as the replacement for the office memo and an efficient means to communicate with the known and named people in each process.

Today email has become one of the most significant tools used to manage an enterprise.

Actually, we should probably say “manage back office defined processes” because as many front office staff would be quick to point out it doesn’t help them to try to find answers to external questions, events and opportunities. The ‘structure’ of email and the mapping to names, rather than knowledge, is exactly what Inside-Out back office needs. A senior manager will want to know who is responsible for what in the core processes. However, for a front office worker the limitations of this are severe; after all if their role is externally focused they simply will not know who they should send which question on what topic to if it doesn’t fit with the enterprises internal processes.

The new Outside-In business models, supported by social tools and collaborative working, need answers to questions based on their topic or content, without having to determine which person to address an email too.

The issue is to integrate these tools and work practice into a business in accordance with the nine characteristics of the ‘technology conscious generation’. This almost certainly requires the front office staff to adopt BYOD and the Outside-In model.

At this point it should be clear as to what, where and why a change is taking place in the tools being used by employees. The strategic nature of this change, from an enterprise point of view, should also be clear.

The new focus for an enterprise is to reform the front office capabilities to enable it to support new competitive market demands. As such, the adoption of new working practices will be a given.

More particularly, it should enable a thoughtful CIO to decide when and how to accept the introduction of new technologies, using the concepts of Inside-Out and Outside-In as the basis for technology separation.

Its been a big topic to cover but hopefully it brings out the key issues, relating them to the immediate tactical needs to address the issues being raised by the use of new technologies by employees, usually backed by their younger business managers. However, it also raises some very critical issues about enterprise management and the governance of its technology empowered employees. This is where “platforms” enter the equation.

Creating a new business platform is the strategic answer, a platform that will enable the management of people and their use of apps and devices in enterprise business activities, all in accordance with business rules established by management. That’s the topic for the next article, bringing together all the elements of my previous three.

As a closing thought, this is the beginning of a longer journey that will see radical change in the manner in which an enterprise functions. Businesses will become truly driven by the need to find optimal responses to external market events, opportunities, and requirements. Thought leaders are already actively providing research papers and presentations that really address a whole redesign in what and how we work in the long term. To understand exactly where this may take the future of work, listen to John Seddon make a series of logical connections that make it hard to deny the manner of the change.

5 shifts that will shape the future of IT


How empowered consumers and the consumerization of technology are shaping business

It’s not often that a week goes past when I don’t hear a new story of a company being ripped apart as it struggles to deal ever more demanding and fickle consumers. Marketing and sales, it’s usually said, have gone rogue leaving finance and IT to pick up the pieces. It’s obviously important to keep selling (and to keep generating revenue), but it’s equally important to do so in a safe and compliant manner (so that you’re still in business next year).

This situation has become bad enough that the analysts are now suggesting that a shift in operating model will be required to solve the problem. That sounds about right, and it looks like the trigger for the shift will be external pressure from regulators.

The problem, then, is to form a sensible picture of how this to-be operating model will function.

Coming up with some general statements about that nature of this new model is fairly easy: it will be more collaborative, it will favor services over assets, innovation will be important, and so on.

What is more important, and much harder to do, is to develop a picture of how the shift to a new operating model will change the roles and responsibilities within a business. How will we heal the rift between the front office – sales and marketing – and the back office – finance and IT?

This is not a question of tweaking the role of the IT department, for example. The IT department’s role – as has been pointed out elsewhere in this publication – is already well defined. IT is the part of the company that is responsible for procuring and maintaining the IT assets a business requires. This isn’t changing. Many businesses need for this role is, however, diminishing.

Nor can the problem be fixed by creating new technology-based roles outside the IT department, such as the Chief Digital Officer or Chief Marketing Technology Officer. While these roles might help the lines of business use technology more effectively, and they may work closely with the CIO and the IT department, they don’t address the root cause of a disconnect forming between the front and back office.

The interesting question then, is “What’s the role of IT in business?” How can the entire business consume and manage IT in a safe and compliant way while still meeting the needs of today’s empower customers?

To answer this question we need insight into who will make the decisions on what IT will be used where and how it will be knitted together. We need some understanding of the drivers behind the current transition in how we consume IT in business.

5 drivers for change

The easiest way to identify these drivers is to consider the shifts we can already see in how we’re managing the technology we have today. We’re not interested in changes in the technologies themselves. Nor are we interested in how the business uses individual technologies. We’re interested in how technology is managed across the business: who gets to decide what and how are conflicts resolved.

First there’s the shift in where technology comes from, and who is responsible for the infrastructure it relies on.

IT has expanded beyond the IT department. The development of on-demand IT (such as Software as a Service, SaaS) and the consumerization of enterprise IT (the use of consumer technology in a business context) mean that businesses, and the lines of business, no longer require the deep IT infrastructure skills that they did in the past. Nor do they want IT to act as a gatekeeper, selecting and procuring the technology to be used by the business.

From this we can identify two obvious trends shaping enterprise IT:

  • Driver 1: Enterprise IT is no longer an infrastructure problem, it’s not an asset we own
  • Driver 2: Consumer trends drive enterprise IT, rather than enterprise IT driving consumer trends

Next, is the impact of these trends on how we manage technology within a business.

Many business stakeholders today feel empowered to make their own decisions on what technology to use where, a result (for many) of a childhood steeped in technology. They’re using new technology in new ways to solve new problems, creating new business opportunities in the process. They don’t want the IT department mediating access to the technology they need, and slowing everything down. Many IT departments are finding themselves on the back foot, unable (or unwilling) to support the business as technology moves out of an automation and cost focused role.

This gives us another two trends:

  • Driver 3: The old core IT skills are not as valuable as they used to be
  • Driver 4: How we define the value of IT has expanded (it’s a lot more than ROI now)

While the previous four trends show us the how IT governance might flex and adapt to changing needs in the business, it is the external constraints that will determine the final role of IT in business.

So what external governance requirements are going to shape how IT fits into a business?

Audit is an obvious candidate. With marketing departments going rogue, often there’s only a tenuous link between what’s happening at the coalface that the company’s chart of accounts. In some instances the only link between sales and the general ledger is a spreadsheet containing the P&L for the new initiatives that is manually uploaded once a month. One day the auditors are going to come in and they will want to see a clear trail of evidence from sales by the new division through to the general ledger.

Another example is anti money-laundering and counter terrorism financing, which is receiving more attention from government as complementary currencies – such as Bitcoin and the “points” used to purchase virtual assets and services in games and social services and which are sold for cash – grow in popularity and attract organized crime. As businesses, even privately held businesses, integrate themselves into new commercial environment they find themselves increasingly subject to AML and CTF regulation.

Consequently our final trend is:

  • Driver 5: External obligations – such as financial reporting, anti money-laundering and counter terrorism financing – will trigger the transition to new operating models

The future role of IT

The future role of IT, as well as the role of the IT department, is not carved in stone. Both are likely to change as businesses find new ways to use IT to create value for them and their customers. The challenge is to understand what is driving this change and which, consequentially, will shape the role of IT, and the role of the IT department, in the future.

What trend do you think will shape the future role of IT and of the IT department in business? What are the drivers that we should be paying attention to?