Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Cloud has Stolen the Thunder finally - Has it? : Part-2

CLOUD has Stolen the Thunder finally -  Has it? (Part-2)

We stated, IT Cloud is a subject of discussion at the top-most echelons of budget approval pyramid process. We touched on 4 dimensions to understand the reason behind it.

  1. Business executives have become tech savvy? Have they finally reached a level where they could understand technicalities and resulting value behind it?  or, 
  2. Is it that this time marketing crescendo is unprecedented, after all this word ‘cloud’ is  more pleasing in lexicon per se. or, 
  3. Is it because battered world economy has forced Executives to think beyond conventional areas? Or, 
  4. Is it simply because, this time ICT sector has fashioned something to roar about. 

Let us analyze the first dimension i.e. growing tech savvy-ness of business executive class.
To do this, Firstly I tried to find the authentic list of current CxOs of developed countries, emerging and underdeveloped countries. 
  • I met with success in getting the list for developed countries. It is widely available for US, Canada, Australia and most European countries: Central bank sites, Stock exchanges, Forbes lists, Fortune, Business mags, CEOexpress and archival record from libraries. 
  • Among emerging market: I could easily get the list for India and Middle-East (because I work here currently). I had great difficulty in finding any such lists for China <could muster certain data but incomplete. For this I must thank to my friends and old colleagues>. Russia/Brazil <probably it is there but I think page language was major hindrance>. SouthAfrica (frankly, did not try hard). 
  • Did not venture in to underdeveloped countries for lack of time and resources
Profiles accumulated churns vast amount of data. I had tough time assimilating them and running hundreds of  macros on spreadsheet. Unfortunately at my home I do not have the luxury of any 'intelligence tool' to this work for me. I realized that even after getting equipped with an efficient tool, it can take many years for someone to  arrive at any precise conclusion. In my case though, I just wanted to get the trends of a very small subset of data... which I think was possible, because it is more about sampling, modeling, running analytics and generating extrapolation.

To complete my analysis, I divided CxOs in two distinct categories: a) Chiefs/Heads of a unit closely related to technology, channels, eBusiness or engagements where HoD spends more than 50% of her/his time on technology management. b) rest of the bunch. The ratio of a and b in my sampling is approx 15 to 85. 
Next the data was further distilled based on their last 10 year experience and type of companies/entities they led.

There were other interesting analysis though... e.g. throughout 2000-2004 and 2004-2008 average age of CxOs was decreasing YoY. Beyond 2009 average age started rising again. Another interesting trend observed is the duration of CxO tenure which was rising during 2000-8; but dropped sharply thereafter.
Also, there were diametric opposite trends of big enterprise CxOs when compared to CxOs of smaller, younger, entrepreneurial companies. A separate book can be written about interesting and fascinating trends gathered while analyzing just the professional profiles of CxOs.

Coming back to the subject of understanding whether current generation CxOs are technology friendly enough? 
Secondly, I used data from my own first hand experience; gathered while talking to executives in conferences, meetings or social gatherings. To summarize my understanding of the situation, I am putting forward a real scenario which I experienced recently while conversing to a group over cocktail drinks. The group consisted - One banker, one from PR/media, one head of finance working with a logistics company, one was HR manager in an oil company and myself (sole IT person). At one point during our normal chit chat, the banker reached to her Blackberry, looked at it and immediately cursed as why the SMS reached to her so late. She apparently used her card at least 6 hours beforehand. 

Quickly our conversation drifted on the subject as why the message received by her was not very informative and what extra information we think must be part of this SMS message sent to her. 
It further drifted where they phrased terms like data availability, real time data, data warehouse, Business Intelligence, bandwidth, protocols, central source of customer data etc etc.

I tried to put my bit by cautioning the possible bottlenecks in the whole process of data gathering before it is formulated and sent to telecom carriers. To me this whole discussion was very occupying and amusing as well, especially when the lady annoyingly exclaimed that she will ensure that this issue is fixed before she uses her card next time. The lady <actually Head of corporate marketing/RM - in an MNC Bank> perceived this as an issue, may not be an issue for others. 

Any way, from the flow of the discussion it appeared to me that now-a-days execs are able to pick and stick techie jargons much more rationally and efficiently than ever before. They are certainly able to connect their 'own experience' with 'end-user experience' using technology bandwagon. I take this a definite sign of them reaching out to technology. This, in my view is departure from the past when it was IT, who is used to knocking doors of business executives... now-a-days, it seems business execs are knocking windows of technology managers and sticking their necks inside. 

Besides, there is another angle to it. Such situation automatically creates extra pressure on the service level required from IT department. Cutting it short... in effect stakeholders will inadvertently press for  higher level of service and shorter time to market. There is now closer scrutiny. CIOs can no more run IT as a shop where something goes in, something else comes out; in terms of product/service or tangible/intangible.  (this para deserves a separate blog topic)

As the old age typical saying... <this one is from the CEO of my previous organization> "I do not need to understand as  Where and How the particular Technology can do something for me? Instead, I just need to know Whether and What it can do for me."... does not fly anymore. I think the time has come that executives need to understand and accept growing pervasive nature of technology to end-users and to themselves as well. Possibly CxOs have already understood this. Most of them already have complete understanding of end-user experience, very often delivered to their target users/customers directly in paper-less and touch-less mode
It was not possible without them venturing out in the How element of the technology. 

In summary, it is quite obvious that CxOs of this age are much more closer to technology than we think they are. Their exploration of "How Technology Can do it" has changed a lot. 

Nevertheless, based on above TWO arguments..... do they justify the reason behind "Cloud in Boardrooms" ?  
In my view, the answer is half-yes. The proposition that Business Executives are becoming more tech savvy is not sufficient. Yet, this phenomenon is very important. This trend has given a launching pad to business executives, using which they are now able to reach out to Technology very easily. 

We shall move to item number 2, marketing crescendo in the next blog.

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