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Lyon, France
47, married, 3 marvellous kids. IT Director for the last 15 years for a large multinational company. I believe in coaching, in professional life as well as in private and sports.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Business Technologies

BT is again another acronym that is now making a quite significant buzz on the Internet. While companies are diving into ITIL or Business Service Management, they tend to come across a number of concepts with strange names, all including "service" in their title, which makes it a little bit difficult to find your way towards excellence in IT service management.

I'll be back to ITIL and Service Management in a future post, but for today I wanted to share with you the concept of Business Technology. Is it really new or is it just another trendy buzz?

What Is B.T.?

The fact is that still in many companies, even more when they are of Anglo-Saxons culture, the BT acronym does not immediately raise a comfortable feeling of known-and-seen-it before. The more common answer to what is BT is still "British Telecom" ;-)

With all the respect we owe to this venerable communication provider, BT is now something else in the IT management world, but still not very precise in anybody's mind, and difficult to define accurately. If I were to attempt to define it in one line, I would probably propose something like: "BT is about turning internal IT orgs technical information processing into Information Services geared towards Business Development".

Mmm…, right, so what does this shift from Information Technology to Business Technology is telling us?

From IT to BT

The one thing that CIOs should be conscious of is that Business leaders are not so much caring about information anymore. Of course they do, but in the past the issue was getting information faster than the competition (arising of the centralized information business ERP sytems in the eighties), and then organize that information to help making faster relevant decision (which build the success of “cubes” and other data mining systems at the turn of the century). Now they have all this (well at least in smart agile companies). Business leaders have more relevant information that they can possibly digest, so the next challenge is to turn this information into business.

The IT-Business Gap

How do we achieve this? And isn't that what IT is doing already? Well… not really. Many IT departments and organizations are still turned internally to making systems work, keeping the lights on. Doing this they invest all time, efforts, and money internally, and very little in developing externally to help business leaders making more business. Have you already heard about the famous gap between IT and business? This is where the root cause is : business give a lot of money to IT to help them doing business, and IT is essentially using that money to keep the lights on, which business was taking as a given to start with, while they were expecting that money to be invested essentially in new ways of doing more business...

How to get to BT

So how do we get there, making that dream of helping businessmen to make more business come true? I recently interviewed a number of senior IT managers during a brainstorming session about BT. They came back with ideas including sharing more and more instantly, using new communication tools, like social media, filtering business information efficiently, providing services more rapidly and efficiently, linking to targeted customers more reliably, etc...

BT is effectively all this together. It is currently organizing itself around use of Social Media to filter business information efficiently, provide IT services internally at the pace that business is needing them, using ITIL as a mean (never as an objective please), make those services transparent using new provisioning schemes like cloud computing, virtualization, or even BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology), and even turn to social media again to obtain direct end-customer input into product development or sold-services development.

So I would for now retain 3 components that are building BT:

  1. Transparency of Infrastructure Technology: Cloud Computing, SaaS, On-demand Provisioning, Virtualization, BYOT, Pay as you use. Business do not care about Technology itself, they care about how much more business they can do with it.
  2. Internal IT Services to evolve at the pace of the Business: ITIL based Service orientated solutions, Service provisioning, advance knowledge of What’s Coming Next, using Social Media as a trend filter.
  3. External IT Services to enable making more Business: Direct marketing with Web 2.0, using social media as THE tool, direct end-customer input to develop new products, using enhanced collaborative tools.
Is that really serious?

When trying to talk through those concepts with business leaders who are not always early technology adopters, as soon as they ear "Social Media" they run away because they translate to Twitter or Facebook addicts losing company production time giving away silly personal information on the web... not a very professional image indeed and unlikely to raise business income up ! You have to be open minded and turned to the future vision in order to convince them. But tangible facts are already there:


First look at the consulting recognized majors, and what they publish these days about it: the Gartner’s, Forbes, Forrester and Cap Gemini are all giving the same speech: in 2010, Social Media and other Business Technologies like Cloud computing will be in the top 3 considerations of CIOs, and investments in those areas will grow significantly. There's clearly something in the air and the mood has changed from “hum, not serious, not for professional life” to "right, interesting and certainly something we should look at". The next foreseeable step being "wow, we're late already, let's catch up!”

You might not want to believe consultants (which is sometimes wise), so look at what main IT players are doing: The Cisco, Dell, HP, IBM, and Google with its App Engine are all there already, and make benefit of it from both sides: to sell more of their end-user products of course, but also to sell more of their services and core technologies.

Regarding investments of major IT technology customers, it's also going in the same direction: most IT investments in 2010 will be made in virtualization (first step of cloud computing), and ITIL programs.

Same sound from marketing sphere: According to Brian Solis, the number one consideration for new marketing development is for social media already and will develop significantly in 2010.

What should be your next steps?

So, convinced? Then you should ask yourself "How much are we ready". I would advise some prudent but necessary steps :

  • Investigate how to encourage Social Media for professional use inside the company, for both External (marketing) and Internal (trend filter) usage:
« From what I am picking up via discussions, peer groups, trade media and at the same time thinking forward, a total ban without correct debate may not be the right answer for the future»
N. Smith, Emerson CIO Europe
But look at which one is best suited for you and how to control its professional usage and establish best practices, rules and policies by training a small group of early adopters to get up to speed.
  • Investigate how to develop Infrastructure Transparency for Business :
Should you engage in Cloud, BYOT, and VDI? Probably yes. Have your advance design teams and R&D start building technology survey and business cases to see which of those are likely to bring benefit to your company. But you cannot just jump into those without the required maturity level. You need to learn to walk before you can run. That means that the necessary processes must be in place and powered by an ITIL based organization upfront.
  • Develop Web 2.0/3.0 skills within your IT organization.
Being able to use web presence, enriched with blogging and social media targeted usage to develop business sounds like a given. But these functionalities are not so easy to put in place and master, as they often fall in the gap between infrastructure and applications. Microsoft SharePoint might also be considered as a first step initiative.

Where to gain more information about B.T.?


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