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How can we stay relevant?

If I ask you to predict how the deployment of IT within your organization will develop, how far into the future can you look with any certainty?

The question presented above is one of the questions I have posed to a large number of directors, managers and CIOs responsible for IT affairs. It has turned out to be an awkward question for many, and some people even feel a little uncomfortable with the answer that they have to give. A typical response is, “I have a clear picture of what will happen in the coming three to six months, at the most. What will happen after that depends on several factors about which I currently have an insufficient overview.”

Nowadays, we are living in a business environment that is dynamic and global. We are becoming overwhelmed by technological developments, and particularly by the short implementation times of such developments. Financial and business-economic changes are occurring at an increasingly brisk rate. We are also seeing rapid developments that have a great impact on the way we live, in both our personal and professional lives. We easily adopt new personal technology like tablet computers and smart phones but, on the other hand, businesswise we keep struggling.

Three to six months is an incredibly short period to solve the substantial investment issues around IT and its relatively long lifespan. Uncertainty around strategic investment decisions is therefore extremely high. Accordingly, it is not so extraordinary to seek solutions in outsourcing the problem to third parties, perhaps in the cloud, or to apply short-cycle improvement and development methods that enable quick adjustment, such as Lean and Agile. Nevertheless, we must also keep our outlook on the future open: what does the theory recommend? how do you apply it? what do the specialists say about the question? how do other organizations cope with such issues? what are their experiences? what can we learn from one another?

To do this properly, we must avoid focusing too much on the news of the day and not (only) think in terms of existing technology. We must try to shake off our own environment, and nurture our curiosity about how technology and other mega-trends are changing the world across a wide front. And we must continue to ask one central question: how can we stay relevant?

Hans Donkers