Deloitte on The Future of IT

If we only look at small pivots, we will only get small effects — Bill Briggs

I was sent an advance copy of Tech Trends 2015 by Deloitte Consulting, and found it compelling reading, especially with regard to the future of IT. The theme in this, the sixth annual report, is the fusion of business and IT.

I got a chance to talk with one of the report’s authors, Bill Briggs, Deloitte’s CTO. I last spoke with him about wearables in the enterprise (see Bill Briggs, CTO of Deloitte, on wearables in the enterprise) in July, where I characterized him this way:

Bill’s been with Deloitte for over 16 years, during which time he has taken onmany roles, including launching Deloitte Digital, a mix of ‘ creative, strategy, user experience, and engineering talent, and technology services to help clients harness disruptive digital technologies to redesign “business as usual” — to engage differently with customers, change how work gets done, and rethink the very core of their markets’. He seemed like my kind of human.

I focused our discussion on two elements of the report. First, CIO as chief integration officer, by Khalid Kark and Peter Vanderslice, and what I view as the other side of the same coin, The IT worker of the future, by Catherine Bannister, Judy Pennington and John Stefanchik.

One of the themes raised by Kark and Vanderslice is the need for CIOs to ‘reimagine their own roles to focus less on technology and more on business strategy’. Briggs elaborated on the CIO as ‘chief integration officer’, especially in light of the increasing commoditization of IT. He pointed out that many analysts — including me — believe that ‘when CIOs are solely oriented on cost containment, they are losing’.

Briggs likened the need to drive digital transformation to the Hero’s Journey, as laid out by Joseph Campbell in the The Hero with a Thousand Faces. This is the lore of the archetypal hero who accepts on the trials of the heroic, struggles mightily, and succeeds, and then returns to where he started, but transformed.

In our day, Briggs argues, the weapons and skills of the IT hero are big data, analytics, cloud, and mobile, as well as an deep orientation toward business outcomes, and the capability to get others to believe in a potential tomorrow.

Bannister, Pennington, and Stefanchik make a persuasive argument that the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) orientation of today’s IT worker need to be amplified into STEAM, by adding arts skillsets — liberal arts and design thinking — to the mix.

I have been pushing the idea of behavioral psychology and cultural anthropology in the workplace for years. It is one of the foundational ideas behind the Socialogy series I’ve been writing for the past several years, for example. Matching those with design and the futures thinking latent in science fiction, can lead to big breakthroughs.

As Briggs put it, ‘If we only look at small pivots, we will only get small effects’, but when you reach farther, you can do more. One very obvious tension in the near future is the inherent conflict between agile and traditional development: where is the edge? Briggs zoomed in on that conflict, saying there will be ‘lots of shotgun weddings before we see happy families’.

So, IT leaders need to deal with the serious challenges how to bring in the DNA needed for this sort of organization, based on those skills. And we are starting at a time of immense and growing demand for STEM skills, today, and STEAM skills in the out years.

This fusion of business and IT going to be a tall order, and will require heroism by all involved.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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Work ecologist. Founder, Work Futures. The ecology of work and the anthropology of the future.

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