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Memorable, Beautiful, Elegant – Form vs Function

Think of any truly beautiful thing, think of an iPhone or a Farrari for instance, what’s so special about them – they are just a phone and a car after all, aren’t they?

The question in my mind is what comes first? Form or Function? What is that secret sauce that makes something truly beautiful, truly memorable, truly elegant.

In my mind the magic is an item that has a needed function to perform being able to be deliver in a beautiful way – first and foremost (just) a thing must have a function it must fill a need.

At its core the Farrari is just a thing to get us from one place to another (all-be-it quickly) and an iPhone is just an item to make phone call on and be online with when you’re on the go. But both these items have been such a success, Why?

So to put the technically spin on this, you may have a website that either looks really nice and is “on brand” or you may have a very functional site packed full of tools but you can’t figure out why people aren’t flocking to it, or if they do come you can’t work out why they aren’t staying longer. – if you’re in this situation consider for a moment:

The sweet spot lives in providing functions your customers actually need, not just what you think they need, but doing this in memorable, beautiful and elegant ways – that’s what makes some web sites truly special.

Standing on the shoulders of giants

Business technology stands on the foundation of operational excellence in technology. The credibility BT needs to have the more meaningful conversations is achieved through firstly through doing the core operational technology role consistently very well.

You can’t be credible sitting in the boardroom having a conversation about business issues or direction and how technology will help deliver results towards the highest order business issues and direction whilst the mail server keeps failing or people are taking 10 minutes to log in each morning.

Once you can be consistently excellent at the technical operations you build credibility over time and it’s this that provides the emotional banking that BT can draw down on to have the meaningful conversations on how technology will help deliver the results your business needs.

Trying to do BT without the operational support being done well is like trying to do marketing without colour or finance without a general ledger.

Business Technology

The case I’d put to you is that IT as we know it today is a dying beast. Or put it more positively the IT department has come to a point in its genesis where, through necessity, it’s starting to undergo an evolutionary leap into a more modern and relevant form.

The “fix or react” mentality is no longer the order of the day for the technology department and we as a technology industry need to look to the future and think what’s the right model / structure / strategy for a technology departments in 2012 and beyond. What we do know is that many CEO’s and CIO’s are after technology strategies and departments that result in far a deeper relationship with their businesses than to just a transactional one of “fix the systems” or “code the widgets”.

As “IT” professionals we have spent years tuning our technology teams to do “IT” better, faster and cheaper but little time working out how our technology people can be as ubiquitous throughout our businesses as our technology systems are.

Technology is now absolutely ubiquitous in almost every part of our business processes and the business that utilises and integrates both their technology systems and their technology people best in their industry to drive growth & innovate will have a huge jump over their competitors, (interestingly, I think this applies at a macro level as well, in that the county the utilises its technology assets, both people and systems, best will have a leap over country’s don’t utilise these asset as well)

The Case:

The case I’d like to put to you is that it’s time for us to start playing a bigger game, our businesses need us to play a bigger game and in my opinion the bigger game has the potential to be a far more rewarding, fun game to play. This is what could be called it2point0 or more commonly Business Technology.

Incidentally it’s worth noting that this term was defined by George Colony of Forrester back in 2006.  - http://blogs.forrester.com/ceo_colony

The existing “fix or react” model is out of date

Taking the presumption that technology is ubiquitous in almost every businesses process and that every business has many issues to solve and many more opportunities to take, then it follows that for a company to win it will need an technology team that plays a far bigger game than to just fix or react.

The question to answer then is how do we deliver technology teams who truly understand our business models, business issues, absolutely get the business drivers and are truly integrated into a business?

Given the current detached fix or react model we predominantly follow as IT departments it is little wonder that our businesses are going elsewhere (eg. the internet / cloud) to solve their problems rather than try to explain these complex issues to “fix or react” IT departments?

So what is Business Technology?

To get us all on the same page let’s talk definitions for business technology:

BT can be described in both a Qualitative (the absolutes of a thing) and Quantitative (the qualities of a thing)

A quantitative definition:

“Business Technology is the art of creating a reality within your organisation where your technology people are as ubiquitous throughout your businesses as your technology systems and services are, and where your technology team actually listens to your business and understanding what really matters to them”

But I feel it’s more helpful to talk about the qualities of BT “the vibe of it!” rather than a qualitative definition as it conveys the message with far more meaning.

A qualitative definition:

Information   Technology Business   Technology
Prescriptive Collaborative
Tech   speak Business   speak
Control Empowerment
Constraints Opportunities
Dictatorial Consultative
Defined Blurred
Now Now and   the future
The   business Our   Business
Sole   supplier Technology   broker

Standing on the shoulders of giants / operational excellence

It’s very important to note that no technology department is going to make the transition from IT to BT without doing the traditional IT job very well.

It’s the day in day out operational excellence that buys the right to sit at the executive table and participate in guiding a business. Quite simply if the email servers keep on failing you just don’t have the emotional banking / kudos to participate in any meaningful way in a conversation about how technology can help transform a business.

At the end of the day it’s operational excellence that buys business technology a seat at the big table.

 

So these are my first thoughts on this topic, from someone who is in the middle of delivering this kind of thinking into an organisation.

I’m very keen to get your angle on this Business Technology concept and understand any of your perception or learning’s. Please comment below or contact me directly.

In the future and continuing on with the BT theme, as a starter for 10 I would like to blog about the following topics over the coming weeks / months:

  • Relationship architecture
  • Our business
  • Capability mapping as a technique to know your business
  • Technology strategy in a Business Technology context
  • Generous listening
  • Vendors & Partners
  • Blurred edges
  • BT and IT, can they live together?
  • It’s all about letting go.

Talk soon,

Mat

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