image courtesy of Michael Schreck
IT companies often stumble over themselves to reactively address their clients’ requirements. Evolution of their products and services is critical to business success and yet, according to Dion Hinchcliffe’s article – How IT can evolve to meet the Big Five – many IT departments still struggle with innovation and business leadership within their own business. Hinchcliffe’s article discusses whether IT departments will take the “big leap” to address the deeply transformational nature of the way their internal customers consume and capitalise on trends such as mobile, social, cloud, consumerisation, and big data. That’s an issue most of us confront daily, but are we asking the right questions?
As my kids study Darwin in school, I paused at “evolve” to consider natural selection, local adaptation and the frequency with which traits appear over successive generations (flash cards!). Will Dimension Data take the “big leap” to develop collaborative solutions that make these big ideas simple for our clients to exploit? What sorts of variation will take beneficial root? How must we evolve to better address our clients’ requirements?
A month from now, my colleagues and I will welcome Cisco’s new head of channel marketing, Amanda Jobbins, to Dimension Data’s head office in Johannesburg – and to the bush – fitting locations to discuss business and natural evolution. Comparing Hinchcliffe’s Silicon Valley Five with the African “big five” may be a stretch, but it’s helping me re-consider the questions we should be asking one another.
The Lion: Consumerisation
Considered by many to be the most popular of the big five, who doesn’t love the lion? Today, I received an offer from Apple to upgrade my iMac to OS X Lion for only $29.99. Most of my colleagues are also bringing some flavor of Apple device to work. How will we ensure the IT at work is as good as the IT at home? Is that the right question?
African elephant: Social
Elephants are social, affectionate animals, using a wide variety of means to listen and be heard. Ears, trunk, even their feet communicate! Poachers prize their tusks and tap into elephant communications to cash in on ivory. How can we better protect our social animals at work, encouraging collaboration while defending precious assets?
Black rhinoceros: Big Data
Black rhinos have suffered the most drastic reduction in population in the last 20 years. With only about 4,000 left in the wild, valiant conservation efforts are in place to increase those numbers. In 2010, rhino horns – which are used for medicinal purposes and prized in Asia – were valued at $30,000 per pound. With each horn weighing in at about 6-8 pounds, that’s a lot of temptation for poachers. Second in size to the elephant, the data tracking and security required to ensure these animals survive requires enormous integrated efforts by parties speaking different languages. Hinchcliffe notes “Meaningful use of big data requires considerable cross-functional buy-in.” How can we also bring the right people to the table around a common business goal?
Can a leopard change its spots? Hinchcliffe asks, can IT “provid(e) a framework for users to bring their own mobile devices to work in a safe manner, including use of apps with business data under certain prescribed conditions”? Can Dimension Data help IT provide mobility solutions to accommodate user choices?
Cape buffalo: Cloud
Bet you were wondering which animal I’d compare to cloud. Most struggle to list Cape buffalo when naming the African big five, but cloud is generally the first to come to mind when listing the big IT five. Now ask for the defining characteristics of cloud and the Cape buffalo’s looking a lot friendlier. How can we help our clients appreciate the importance of understanding cloud options and evolve with an eye toward strong survival? Helping them understand each model’s attributes and power is a survival-essential place to start.
Like the Big Five, Big IT is vulnerable to hubris and legacy thinking. Darwin said “it’s not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.” Through our joint evolution, Dimension Data and Cisco have helped our clients IT departments stay ahead of user requirements for 20 years. I look forward to my week with Cisco in Johannesburg, thinking through some of these questions and using Africa’s big five as a metaphor for our shared need to evolve. The sky’s the limit if we bring our best attributes together to address these five IT challenges by being Better Together.