New business are, in many ways, lucky being born in the current digital world. While they may have found the past few years a financial challenge, they are starting and growing at a time when they have never had it so good technically.
A new business can launch with sophisticated plug-and-play systems and processes – such as payroll, HR, web design and a host of others – where months and years of development has already been completed by a third party provider. They do not face stressful IT transformation processes or worry about legacy systems and compatibility. The Directors and staff can get on with building the core business, safe in the knowledge that software and server issues will be managed by their cloud suppliers.
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Which is all very well for the business world's digital natives. But there are still a majority of companies that began many years before the cloud was even a faint blur on the digital horizon.
For those organisations, and in particular their C-level leaders, the memories still burn of external development companies offering the next "greatest IT thing", only to find out it wasn't. Or, watching bright new IT stars flicker briefly before burning out, while internal IT teams were fragmented by growth, or made redundant in harder times, leaving unworkable legacy systems with no-one to fix them.
Failure to move on
The IT world has moved on, with homeworking, collaboration and cloud-based development a reliable reality. But there are still many C-level executives who have yet to catch up, for whom past memories continue to cloud their vision and hold back their organisations.
This is despite the reality of agile development and cloud-based tools that can reduce costs and grow sustainable, efficient IT infrastructures and, ultimately, organisations as a whole. The mention of "cloud" simply brings on a case of "the vapours" with an inability to see beyond the recognised (but surmountable) challenges of security, data storage and so on. They see lots of funky apps on their tablets or smartphones, but struggle to see their practical application in an enterprise setting.
According to a 2013 MIT Sloan Management Review, the vast majority of executives recognised that achieving digital transformation would become critical to their organisation within the next two years, but only one third stated that this was a permanent fixture on their CEO's agenda.
While, sadly, there are still many non-digital native C-levels who remain unable to move beyond the traditional, they shouldn't be pilloried for it. The minute you change any system, it impacts on people's day jobs and many bosses question whether the upheaval is actually worth it. According to the MIT report, where digital visions had been shared, 93% of employees backed them, but only 36% of CEOs had actually shared those visions in the first place.
Flexibility of the cloud
Those visionaries are the ones who recognise that the greater automation of time and resource-sapping, day-to-day processes can help maximise their greatest asset – people. They see the flexibility of cloud-based system development, allowing them to rapidly prototype new processes, without needing to introduce massive long-term change.
They also recognise that these systems can be built around existing systems such as Salesforce.com, with an opportunity to rationalise redundant systems and cut out the deadwood. They have also changed their perspective to work more collaboratively with suppliers and recognise consultants as not just a cheaper way of replacing headcount, but cost-effective development tools in their own right, whose costs are reduced by working virtually to provide their expertise.
These are the C-level Digital Dynamos, the Champions of Cloud, and are the very best advocates to help refocus their fellow senior directors' vision of a brave new digital world. They deserve as much support as the tech world can offer.
About Dr Peter Chadha
Dr Peter Chadha is Managing Director of DrPete Inc and Steegle.com. He is an IT consultant providing strategic IT reviews and implementation to global enterprise. He takes a pragmatic approach to business solutions, but is a technology evangelist.