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The future is now: is IT ready?

By: Bob Janssen, Founder and CTO, Res Software
Published: Tuesday, January 19, 2016 - 15:10 GMT Jump to Comments

Every year we consider the massive IT developments of the past and make predictions for the coming year. We can continue to focus on the trends and forecasts of others, but the danger is that we get into a lull.

I would suggest something different this year: namely, this January, let go of everything and direct our vision of IT in a new way: future-proofing. The world is reinventing itself. Technology is exponentially smarter, innovative start-ups redefine entire industries and Tilt Business Models are regularly seen. Opt in or lose out! We are being told we need to sit closer to our customers, that it's all about personalisation and that new forms of communication are needed to succeed. The human dimension is most important, or flexibility, or agility.

The frames are more elaborate every year, because technology is not slowing down. But what if the IT department does not have time for necessary innovation? What if IT is constantly busy with 'keeping the lights on' and is paralysed by its own legacy of outdated systems and slow, manual processes? This needs to change, and it has to happen instantly. The future is now.

Forget what we (think we) know

IT is slowly stalling many organisations. They do want to innovate, but who maintains the system there? Who takes care of the on-offboarding of employees? Who ensures that every user gets the software they need, and ensures that the user’s rights are revoked when an employee resigns? There are many IT departments that simply do not have the time and budget to take risks. Users do not receive the technologies they need, and the organisation risks losing its competitive edge. If we allow IT to gain the role it deserves, it requires a fundamentally different way of thinking.

Think like a start-up

IT is naturally very progressive, but the way in which larger organisations run today’s IT is dated and inflexible. The big advantage that start-ups have is that they have no baggage to carry around. They are free of unwieldy systems and time-consuming processes. This allows them to grow exponentially and lead the way in terms of innovation.

How would you organise the IT of your organisation if you could start over? The first step is simple: automate common processes that are now performed manually by the IT department. Facilitation tasks such as on- and off-boarding and granting access rights are not core to the business, so why is so much precious time spent here? The next step would be buying services in a smarter way, such as buying cloud based services. You can then spend less money yet increase the quality of internal IT management, allowing you to dedicate that time and budget for innovation.

Not only must the systems and processes be in order, but also the way in which the IT team works must facilitate and foster innovation. Successful startups often use the "fail fast, or fail at” principle: do not take big risks with extensive and long-term projects, but approach internal innovation from small, manageable projects. Develop your organisation and your products by trying a lot and failing very often, ultimately achieving success. Not everything is predictable and clear but sometimes bold experiments develop the most innovative products and services. Develop an experimental culture; are you willing to try new things and overcome internal resistances in your organisation? If an idea doesn’t work, move on to the next one quickly.

The future is now

If you have automated your IT, outsourced your support services and experimented to spearhead creativity, you have laid a solid foundation for innovation. Automating predictable IT services has allowed for the rest of the organisation to become more efficient and productive. You only turn to IT support for new business propositions. The organisation is now future-proof and flexible enough to cope with changing circumstances. Just in time, I would argue, because the future is going to take place in 2016.

To illustrate: you can see it already happening if you look at companies like Tesla. Tesla is not a car but an innovation platform. Recently an update was published on the innovation platform which resulted in hands-free driving. This is something that a car manufacturer of the old school would never do because it is far too risky. It ensures that companies like Tesla will conquer the market and the old, cumbersome producers will eventually be left far behind. The same principle applies to the IT organisation. We should not see our IT as a service with technology, but as a platform. A platform for innovation.

We need vision

The most important step that can help organisations prepare for the future is to develop a vision. A vision that is focused on enabling change. A vision that is supported by the entire company and supports the organisation behind a transformative purpose. How do we stay relevant? How do we offer an ever-changing future amid startups like Airbnb, Uber and Tesla, which can produce ten times faster, provide better products and realise greater profit per employee ten times faster than the average organisation in their industry?

One thing is certain: we will not make it if we limit the amount of risks we take, or outsource our IT and lose our direction. We must integrate innovative IT in our business, because only then can we ensure that our organisation itself remains innovative. We must act now or lose out. When 20 years ago you did not change or innovate anything, you could still be ahead of the game for another 20 years. Nowadays, if companies do not change or innovate they will be out of the market within a couple of years (and most likely they’ll have to rent a SpaceX-spaceship from Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO).

My New Year's message is: let's go use IT again as it was meant…to innovate. When we are all into it in 2016 and create an innovation platform, we can face the future with confidence. I wish you all a very happy and advance innovative 2016!

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Information Daily, its parent company or any associated businesses.

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