I spend a lot of time talking with our customers’ decision makers, I meet regularly with peers and of course I keep an eye on analysts’ predictions and speculations. Technology trends and business trends are typically slightly out of sync as are hype and reality – and for the same reason. I sympathize with our customers’ challenges to make sense of all the buzz, trying to make educated decisions on their future IT landscape, when to invest, which software solutions to go for, with whom to partner with, how to buy. No decision is immune to the unexpected, making decisions is a discipline of combining probabilities and calculating risk.
We are experiencing really exciting times. Operational efficiency is now the norm, but no longer the center of gravity – eyes are set on topline revenue generating solutions, added-value services, new channels, harnessing digitalization to improve customer experience. And there is a clear shift from maintenance to development.
The office of the CIO became business-minded a while ago and now businesses’ increasing IT-acumen and a rapidly growing appetite for new solutions is putting pressure on shortening the innovation-to-profit process. Businesses are also finally admitting IT can bring genuine business benefits and even improve their competitive advantage. Business-driven-IT is finally here. Digitalization is a source of endless opportunity – it provides possibilities to engineer new business models, create net-new revenue streams, reach new customer segments, access global markets and understand and harness information in ways which were not long ago entirely unimaginable.
The ongoing shift of on-premise to cloud is accelerating. SAP’s recent announcement on their strategy will have ripple-effects, which have monumental proportions. The business critical nervous system, back-bone ERP, related core-business applications and analytics are now cloud-eligible. The migration has started and it will not end any time soon.
For today’s IT partners (formerly known as systems integrators), the situation has also changed. The set-up is increasingly polarized. Outsourcing of systems maintenance and routine services have been commoditized, service performance is excellent and supply is maturing. Developing new solutions on the other hand – providing the sought-after competitive advantage is not just based on software selection, but it is a cocktail of software, architecture, connectivity, deployment, access, presentation and customer intimacy. Those who can demonstrate they have genuinely internalized the customers’ business, those who benefit from the changing environment and those who can orchestrate the abundance of options into sustainable, customer-specific solutions will prevail.
B2BC is the new transaction. Solutions need to be fitted for the Business-to-Business-Consumer. New solutions need to respect platform guidelines and policies yet tailored to the individual need. Decision makers cannot wait for release-cycles or consensus-driven applications. Business agility requires responsive business IT solutions, easy access and easy consumption. Digital business applications need to be an experience.
For Customers, there is a paradox in this evolution. On one hand, what could be easier than just buying software as a service or as cloud-based solutions? Pay-as-you-go, scalable licensing, no shelf-ware…Sounds familiar? Even if there were no budgetary limitations or nobody cared about sunk costs, or gave a damn about who owns the data, or worried how to integrate everything with everything – the new era is maybe even more difficult to manage than the old nut-and-bolt IT. Partners play an increasingly important role as interpreters and advisors. Ones who can decipher hype and put it into a customer context. Ones who can navigate and network with the new ecosystem on behalf of the customer. Ones who have the guts to challenge the customers’ fixations with best-practices.
The boundaries between business, IT, partners and solutions are becoming fuzzier and more converged. This makes tomorrow interestingly different compared to today. It also means that tomorrow’s IT partners, real-time business digitalists, will need to qualify in many new disciplines just to survive, and excel in them to succeed. And the transformation has needed to start yesterday for those who aspire to lead the way.