Nexus of Forces

At the recent Gartner Summit they talked about the Nexus of Forces which are changing the face of business.

“A Nexus of converging forces — social, mobile, cloud and information — is building upon and transforming user behavior while creating new business opportunities.”

I covered this in more detail in a recent blog Gartner Nexus of Forces. Scarier than Halloween.  And whilst most people recognize these forces at work in their personal and business lives, it is the implications that are either liberating or terrifying, depending on your viewpoint.

CEOs of companies should be elated or terrified. They can use these dramatic forces to leapfrog their competition. But they are also at risk from more nimble start-ups who are not hamstrung by legacy thinking, operations and systems.

Can you trust your CEO?

However, if you look at all the surveys of CEOs, Gartner’s analysis is it is clear that they are asleep at the wheel, and this should be worrying for their shareholders, employees and customers.

It is not that CEOs are not aware of the forces as IBM’s recent comprehensive b-annual survey of CEOs has shown. The 4 Nexus of Forces – social, mobile, cloud and information – are rooted in IT. So harnessing these forces means understanding, be the close confidant as the CEO formalizes strategy and looks to drive innovation in their business models. That person is the CIO.

But who does the CEO go to for advice and counsel on strategy and innovation? The surveys say it is the CFO or COO, neither of whom have the deep IT skills. It is not the CIO. In fact in another fascinating survey it shows that CEOs do not believe that the company’s IT strategy and the CIO’s expertise is ANY competitive advantage to the company. When asked the potential next career move of their CIO, the answer for in a staggering number of cases was “CIO of a competitor”.

You could say that this is a problem for the CEO, which it is. But the CIO should be taking some of the blame. CIOs need to massively raise their profile and their perceived value.

CIO – examine yourself

So the CIO needs to take a hard look at themselves in the mirror. But there is a clue in their title –  CIO. What does the “I” in their title really stand for; IT, Infrastructure, Innovation, Information, Insights.  The CEO thinks the “I” stands for IT or Infrastructure; providing hardware, systems and some reporting.

They need to evolve or reinvent themselves. They need to think and act more like entrepreneurs, but this may be counter-culture for many who have spent their lives being the steady, risk averse managers tasked with keeping the lights on and driving down costs.

For some it may not be in their nature. Being creative and courageous and entrepreneurial is not a learned skill.  So, if a CIO does not have the natural skills they need to align themselves with those who are. And then they need to make sure that the CEO understands that the CIO should be a critical ally as the company battles the Nexus of Forces.

TIBCO has the same problem as the CIO

Whilst it was interesting to hear about the plight of the CIO, many of the messages resonated when I think about TIBCO. Great engineering and sales but poor marketing. So growing and profitable, but considered by most customers to be “infrastructure or integration”. But over the last 5+ years through R&D and M&A the TIBCO portfolio of products has expanded to include social, process discovery, analytics, in-memory, master data management, loyalty, mobile and integration. But alongside that the professional services teams have helped company drive some transformational change.

But TIBCO needs to raise its profile from very competent IT product provider to trusted IT platform provider that not only the CIO but also the CEO/COO/CFO of a company can turn to. It is a journey that has already started in TIBCO and is gathering pace. The first steps were painful, expensive and uncertain, but every step becomes easier.

CIOs need to start that journey or reinvention, no matter how painful it seems.


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