As a Time Lord, Doctor Who is known for his ability to regenerate, to transform into a new physical form and take on a new personality. It is also a quality that successful companies demonstrate; the ability to redefine their business model, to transform themselves and disrupt their markets to maintain leading positions and continue to deliver value to shareholders.
There are numerous examples of organisations that have successfully disrupted their own markets, reinvented their business models and gone on to dominate their competitors. Likewise there are many companies that have failed to challenge their business model and have either been left playing catch-up or, worse still, have ceased to exist. Quite often the two go together: one company disrupts a market and catches the other players napping. The most complacent of which just don’t react quickly enough and are left fighting for their survival.
Technology, in one form or another, has often been the enabler of such transformations. From automation in production lines through to the internet, corporate history is full of examples where disruptive technologies have enabled businesses to renew their business models and remain successful.
And in an ironic twist we now see disruptive technologies threatening to disrupt the role of CIOs and IT departments. Trends such as Cloud, social and consumerisation have the potential to transform technology within the enterprise, reinventing how data and systems are provisioned, accessed and managed.
Throughout my career I have seen many CIOs and IT departments that have not regenerated themselves. This failure to reinvent their operating models has led to performance issues, poor relationships with key stakeholders and a lack of credibility throughout the organisation. This ultimately damages the business and potentially the careers of the IT leadership team.
In the past, business units and corporate functions have usually had to put up with an out-of-date IT function. Whilst some shadow IT activity would have taken place, this would have been limited and quite likely to have involved small-scale or tactical systems. But with the rise of cloud-based services it is becoming increasingly easy for non-IT departments to procure large-scale, strategic solutions without involving their IT functions. And recognising this fact, vendors of cloud-based services (and those engaging in cloud washing) are targeting non-IT functions directly. Whilst this model exposes the organisation to a range of risks and is very likely to lead to problems in areas such as security, integration with other systems, vendor lock-in, etc., such issues will only manifest themselves in the future, once the systems have been deployed and the IT function sidelined.
If CIOs want to avoid being bypassed by frustrated colleagues they need to follow the example of Time Lords and regenerate themselves and the IT function on a regular basis. And it’s not just an act of self-preservation. Having an IT function that is being bypassed by the rest of the business will be damaging to the organisation in the long-term. Regeneration should be part of the CIO’s job description.