June 6, 2011

Digital Pandey: Rise of the underdog from your IT backyard

Rise of IT - CIO's perspective
When Bollywood star - Salman Khan - decided to take on the role of Chulbul Pandey in the blockbuster – Dabangg, little did anyone foresee the impact of social media and customer segmentation in the film industry. While many corporations still stayed resistant to tweet or create a fan page, here was a fantasy hero breaking records with more than 19,000 followers in one day and tweeting his experience live during the shooting of this movie. The positioning of the brand – Chulbul – was strategic, and marketing of ‘Munni Badnam Hui’ was extravagant. Touching the hearts and minds of a target audience, this movie set out to become a lesson for businesses to learn, consume, and act upon.

Can the real Chulbul please stand up? Let's be honest. The PC age, Y2K phase, and Dot com era have come and gone; each of them highlighting the relevance of effectively managing Information Technology (IT) in the business environment. Despite multiple attempts to prove its worth, the IT department in many organizations is still undermined and under-funded. It continues to struggle to change its perception of being merely a support function for the business.

So what is it going to take for IT to prove its worth and come in the limelight? When will companies truly believe in IT as a strategic driver for the business?

Well, the time has come!

Today there is a lot of pressure for IT to innovate in support of their businesses and help drive new product development, increase operational efficiencies, and improve customer satisfaction. Similar to social media, other disruptive trends such as cloud and mobility have also emerged. IT is now on the forefront of business. It seems as if it’s now or never.

While the time to rise and shine has come for IT, the expectations to drive business strategies have also increased dramatically. IT will need to continue to act as a support function for the business. But now with the expectation to drive technology-driven strategic changes in the enterprise, IT seems to officially have an added responsibility of playing the role of Chulbul Pandey in today’s business context.

Here are three ways to Dabangg-ify your IT department to meet new business expectations:

1. Get business-savvy. If IT wants to lead fearlessly, then it will need to develop its business acumen as well as understand the business well. Going forward, IT will increasingly be invited to present their innovation plans at board meetings. Skills such as financial forecasting and budgeting will become imperative to justifying large investments. These new IT investments are bound to face resistance from CFOs if IT is unable to demonstrate their value in a clear and measurable way. IT will need to develop business cases and explain how new technology investments will make the company more profitable and competitive in the marketplace.

2. Effectively align IT with business. IT will not only need to talk business but also closely work with business to understand their goals and effectively apply new technologies to meet their goals. However, in order to work closely work with business, IT leaders will firstly need to build strong relationships with key business stakeholders and patiently listen to their current concerns and future needs. In doing so, IT will be able to become a trusted partner on the journey to innovation.
For instance, it is not uncommon to find companies these days adopting customer centricity as the means to sustainable business growth. As consumers spend increasing proportion of their time connecting and expressing themselves on the internet today, companies are looking for ways to leverage these social behaviors to understand, acquire, and retain their customers across digital channels. These intensive data collection and analysis efforts can only be successful if IT effectively partners with business teams – Marketing, Sales, and Customer Service. IT should not just provide technology services and tools but use the opportunity to effectively apply these consumer-facing platforms and technologies to meet the goals of the business. To ensure effectiveness, reduce risk, and justify cost of a radically new technology investment, a detailed technology assessment (including a proof of concept) should be collaboratively conducted and reviewed with business. Once the project is approved, releases should be incrementally rolled out. To build further credibility for such efforts, tying technology metrics to business metrics is also strongly recommended.

3. Sustain innovation capabilities. Social media, cloud computing, mobility, analytics, and Green IT are some of the emerging zones of technology heroism. This is only the beginning of an age of enterprise innovation. Tomorrow there will be a new wave of technologies and trends coming our way that companies will want to leverage in order to refine their business processes or even redefine their business models. 
To drive the business with IT-enabled innovation, IT leaders will need to embody creative leadership and inspire others to walk the path of innovation. 
They will need to develop the right long term strategy and supporting structure, such as creating a nimble, high performance team of business-savvy IT resources and dedicating time to assessing emerging technologies on a regular basis.

To summarize, if you are a part of the IT department in your organization and are excited about innovation, chances are that there is a Digital Pandey in you. So why not take this opportunity to transform yourself, put measurable value from innovation on the enterprise table, and change the perception for IT in your organization!


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