In February, PAC was analyst partner to the CIO30 DACH – a three-day event gathering 30 CIOs from Germany, Austria and Switzerland. CIOs of companies such as Adidas, Credit Suisse, Danone or Merck participated. In the ‘communications roundtable’ that I moderated over two days, we intensely discussed the CIOs’ main pain points around communication topics. Let me share some of the findings with you:
The number one topic on everyone’s agenda was collaboration and knowledge sharing. Major questions raised were:
- How can CIOs best support the exchange of knowledge across their organizations?
- How can IT best provide access to the right information at the right time to the right people within the company?
- How do we treat different forms of knowledge sharing, e.g. more ‘static’ knowledge management versus more ‘dynamic’ forms of social collaboration?
Today, many companies use SharePoint as a repository for ‘static’ knowledge, i.e. for information with a half life longer than a few weeks. However, CIOs considered Sharepoint (in recent versions) as not effective to support the exchange of ‘short-term’ information – knowledge that is very important to the company but loses its value quickly. Social collaboration tools, for instance Microsoft’s Yammer, Salesforce’s Chatter, or Atos’ blueKiwi are expected to better support these dynamic forms of knowledge sharing – but so far experience with these tools has been limited.
CIOs demand that (social) collaboration tools have to become much better integrated with business processes and related LOB software. As a first step, many CIOs hope for a better integration of various Microsoft products in the near future, such as Sharepoint, Yammer, Lync or even Skype.
In a next step, CIOs expect collaboration to be increasingly attached to certain individual business objects. Collaboration communities will emerge for example around an insurance claim, the production of a jet engine or a specific customer project. Easy integration mechanisms between process software and social collaboration tools were identified as a key prerequisite for this to happen.
At the same time it was stressed that collaboration is not just a question of software but also of working culture. Management has to be committed to a culture of knowledge sharing and collaboration. Good usability and word of mouth will ultimately make collaborative communities grow.
The second most important topic on the CIOs’ agendas was the digital transformation of their companies, in particular with respect to digital marketing. Key questions raised were:
- How can CIOs support new ways of customer interaction over various channels, such as blogs, social networks, email, SMS, Twitter etc?
- What is the future role of IT in increasingly digitalized business models and an extremely fast changing environment?
- And very important: how can the IT department act as a driver for change and innovation?
In this respect CIOs exchanged the experience that it makes a lot of sense to define a ‘two-track IT’ which handles different kinds of projects: the classic, long-term IT projects with a focus on security and control versus fast-track, innovative initiatives, so-called ‘innovative speed boats’.
The future role of IT will be to provide the necessary building blocks for new digital business processes in a modular, service-oriented way. In one example brought forward, IT’s role was to create a SOA with a set of basic tools for digital marketing campaigns, e.g. user registration as standard API, standardized pieces of analytics to feed the marketing intelligence platform, recurring shop services etc. This way IT considerably helps to speed up the work of the marketing department and their agencies.
The close link of marketing and other business departments with IT was stressed again as old wisdom. The implementation of cross-functional innovation teams, so-called ‘change teams’, staffed from different departments, including IT, to foster innovation could form the nucleus here. Diversity in these teams was discussed as a major prerequisite for successful innovative IT projects. As was the need for a new kind of IT personnel: young, innovative, marketing-oriented digital natives!
By the way: the topics I expected to be discussed in a roundtable on communication, such as enterprise mobility, unified communication and collaboration, contact centers etc, were deselected from the list of pressing issues in the first session… Not because these topics are not relevant – but because CIOs are less concerned with technology challenges than with real business needs!