The Early Stages of the Digital Enterprise Journey

I have had the pleasure of attending and presenting at several CIO forums in the past couple months –and with all the talk of their future demise and the changes ahead for Enterprise IT, it’s good to get a view from the CIO themselves. They all seem very interested in the dialog around their role changing in the next 3 to 5 years, and the panel sessions on the topic are mobbed. But I don’t see this group buying into the notion that their role will change – aside from the more progressive CIOs. Actually, at a recent event, it felt like very little was changing – as I sat through presentations that could have easily been given in 1998. Some of the same challenges that traditionally drain the resources of an IT organization are still front and center. 

The continued focus on reducing the cost of systems of record is obvious, but I don’t yet see an enterprise focus on creating systems of engagement. As a matter of fact, most are not familiar with this emerging vision so eloquently described by Geoffrey Moore. This holistic vision for the future provides a framework for thinking about the role of the big four areas of innovation – Social, Mobile, Big Data and Cloud. I believe their role within the context of systems of engagement can be viewed this way: 

  • As described by Forrester in a recent report, Mobile becomes the face of engagement within the systems of engagement architecture.
  • Social becomes the relationship platform and is leveraged to optimize partner engagement, drive employee performance with a heavy dose of gamification, and enhance customer engagement. Unfortunately, I find social is still viewed through a Facebook and Twitter lens.
  • In the context of systems of engagement, we will get past the technology hype and utilize Big Data to inform the interactions that drive our moments of engagement, better inform operations, drive more intelligent processes, and optimize our business outcomes
  • The Cloud may be the most misunderstood of all. As one CEO recently asked me: “Could you please tell me why I should care about the Cloud”. The Cloud will ultimately be the systems of engagement enabler. It will continue to serve as an optimizer of systems of record. It will serve as a hub for multiple devices, a research oriented supercomputer, and a big data and analytics engine. 

I think of this very forward looking vision articulated by Geoffrey Moore and wonder how we realize it, when I see still see some very old school thinking: e.g. cloud – hell no! Instead, these conferences are dominated by talk of BYOD – a very real and pressing issue for CIOs – but just one obstacle along the way to our future state. It’s obvious from the dialog that there are more questions than answers. Even those that have tackled the BYOD issue have barely scratched the surface. So we are clearly in the early stages of this Digital Enterprise journey.

For example, through the various discussions in these forums, it’s clear that Big Data is still not well understood. I sat through a recent presentation that equated Big Data with document management on steroids. On the other hand, Big Data seems to have become analogous with Hadoop. The evolution of technology that has enabled the effective use of large volumes of various data types is not to be under-valued. But at the same time, let’s not lose sight of where the true value lies: leveraging this data for its insight and informing the interactions so critical to the future digital enterprise. Extreme information management, advanced analytics, enabled actions and optimized outcomes are all critical elements of our futures systems of engagement. Moving from a narrow view of big data to this broader view in my mind is a critical step in the maturation process. I believe you will find that most companies are still in the traditional world of business intelligence and the journey has just begun.

There seems to be CIO consensus around the imperative to partner closer with the business, but this isn’t a new thought. The frequent approach to placing CIOs in the business in a matrix structure dates back many years. If it was an effective way to solve the business and IT alignment issues, they would be solved by now. The issues go deeper than that, and the eventual structural changes will as well. Also, the messages seem mixed to me as surveys of senior business executives indicate a frustration with Enterprise IT over an inability to quickly exploit new technology innovation. Yet on the other side, I hear CIO frustration over an inability to sell the business on the value of these new innovations. I’m sure each is true at some level, but I can’t help but feel that the true issue is the absence of a holistic vision. Maybe executives on both sides of the aisle feel that these big innovations are all passing fads. Maybe they still view social as Facebook and mobile as a couple of applications. Maybe security is still an obstacle to Cloud adoption and Big Data is just marketing hype – maybe. If that’s true, then the Business and IT divide is destined to live on. Only when each innovation is viewed in their right context, and their intersections are understood, can a holistic vision be formed. I believe this vision is what moves both sides to common ground. That common ground will make it obvious to both sides, that organizational change is necessary. 

It has been a truly educational experience for me these past two months as I have split my time between business and IT executives. One thing is clear, we are at the early stage of what I believe will be a very transformative period.

4 thoughts on “The Early Stages of the Digital Enterprise Journey

  1. Perhaps change will come from new marketplace entrants who fundamentally live the social business paradigm and unseat today’s incumbents. History is filled with examples of once dominant companies that have gone under because they couldn’t see past their paradigms. Geophrey Moore actually has an slide filled with such companies.

    On the other hand, perhaps we can show the incumbents what the future looks like by demonstrating examples of the moments of engagement that could change their world. A futuristic MOE Lab of sorts.


  2. The Web 2.0 companies displaced the Web 1.0 companies, and we could very well see the Mobile era drive the demise of the Web 2.0 companies. More importantly, has we move into the systems of engagement era, companies are adopting aspects of the four innovations in isolation. There is no overrinding vision like systems of engagement to steer their efforts. The result will be the creation of more organizational and data silos, the rise of shadow IT, and a negative impact on performance. This to me is the real issue.


  3. […] Digital is the fundamental component of this transformation. The broader view of digital, represented by traditional web channels, Social, Mobile, Cloud, Big Data, Consumerization, and the Internet of Things, forms the foundation for the future Enterprise. As such, I believe the most accurate name for this future enterprise is “Digital Enterprise”. I talked about this in an earlier post that described The Early Stages of the Digital Enterprise Journey. […]


  4. […] Digital is the fundamental component of this transformation. The broader view of digital, represented by traditional web channels, Social, Mobile, Cloud, Big Data, Consumerization, and the Internet of Things, forms the foundation for the future Enterprise. As such, I believe the most accurate name for this future enterprise is “Digital Enterprise”. I talked about this in an earlier post that described The Early Stages of the Digital Enterprise Journey. […]


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