Being Digital - A primer for commercial real estate. Part 3.

December 2013

It may seem counter intuitive but IT is dead. The incarnation that so many people have to interact with, the IT Department, is about to catch a nasty bug. Within five years they will be few and far between.

How can that possibly be? This is the IT age isn’t it?

Well… no. This is the Digital Age. And ‘Being Digital’ is not about IT.

Traditionally IT has been seen as a cost to a business. We need this ‘stuff’ to operate and, try as we may, it just seems to get more and more expensive. For larger companies the tyranny of vendors has meant that, in order to receive even tolerable value, being locked in to 3,5, 10 year (or even more) contracts has become the norm. The poor embattled CIO desperately tries to become a real member of the ‘C’ Suite but is rebuffed with instructions to just ‘reduce those costs’. So those inflexible, lengthy contracts are entered into, despite it being clear that they are damaging to a business. Innovation killers in the extreme. Any change is now a cost, and any cost is resisted. So you end up with dull, process driven companies that succeed for a while simply through market indifference, but given time become out of touch, out of date zombies awaiting takeover or slow decline. Is it any wonder the short lifespan of larger companies.

Those days are coming to an end, because Being Digital fundamentally changes the IT landscape. How?

1. As more and more software is moved to the cloud, where updating, monitoring, networking and maintenance is taken care of by the supplier, the whole paraphernalia of an IT department becomes redundant. Unlike being stuck with either out of date software (go on, check how out of date yours is) or long term contracts where you have to do exactly what your supplier says, or incur the cost penalty, in the Cloud you simply buy what you need, as and when you need it.

2. And because of the cost savings, and the freeing up of staff, and the flexibility of provision, everyone in a business can be provided with ‘fit for purpose’ software. The CIO becomes an enabler, not a naysayer.

BUT …. and this is where the IT department, as is, dies, the CIO role disappears during this transformation. It is no longer appropriate for each department in a business to manage their affairs based on what IT offers. Being Digital means every department thinks about their requirements in a fully rounded, holistic manner. What do we need offline, and how does that impact on our online activities? Who do we interact with, and how can we do that offline and online in a manner where dealing with us is not determined by the method our customers choose? Retailers are charging down this route with their ‘omni-channel’ strategies but, in practice, all business units should be thinking in this way.

And once you realise Being Digital means a sea change in internal and external communication, and that collaboration is de rigeur you realise that each department needs to think about their digital requirements on a day to day basis you need help from a CHIEF DIGITAL OFFICER, rather than a traditional CIO. This person needs to understand ‘product’ as much as tech and guide each department as to what is available and achievable. And wherever possible, dismiss anything that takes a lengthy period to implement.

Changing a companies mindset from treating IT as a cost to totally co-opting tech as a digital enabler is the way to go. Whether you like it or not. But you will like it as this new structure will enable you to do more for less, and innovate like never before. The bottom line is that Being Digital is not about IT.

It’s way sexier than that:)

Antony