Can business change as fast as change itself?

Technology has proved its value in increasing efficiency. Organizations increasingly face immense pressures to leverage technology to make fundamental shifts in how they organize, operate and manage their businesses and practices. One of the questions we get the most is, “How do I take technology and enable business processes to better drive the business?”

This question and many others were answered at Dell World, 2013. Harvard Business Review Editor Angelia Herrin led an engaging conversation with Chairman and Editor-in-chief of Forbes Media, Steve Forbes, Chief Innovation Officer of Worley Parsons, Brian Adams, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of ReelFX, Steve O’Brien, Chairman and Chief Innovation Officer of Dell Services, Jim Stikeleather.

The group discussed what the future holds for several big trends. One thing is clear as a result of the conversation: The strength of the 5-year business plan and the associated IT alignment process is strongly in question.

Steve Forbes suggested the rapid and massive change could be blamed on a sluggish global economy and quickly evolving technology. After all, the 175-year-old business model that brought Steve Forbes his wealth and perspective has gone through radical change, brought on by the Internet, just in the past decade.

Steve O’Brien agreed. The entertainment industry has been just as slow to respond to the changes being introduced with each new technology wave, yet, at the same time, it is going through radical digital transformation. And while the way film is recorded and produced has adapted, the business practices and approaches of the industry have not.

Brian Adams, as the lone CIO on the panel, understands the challenge of using IT as a strategic differentiator for his business partners. His previous roles as CFO and marketing, manufacturing and services executives gave him a unique understanding of how to balance his organization from just being a “run” organization, or one who keeps the lights on, to an innovative and strategically-aligned function.

The challenge with perspective and understanding of what needs to happen is that change doesn’t wait for organizations to catch up. Jim Stikeleather suggested that the tried-and-true 5-year business plan is gone—another victim to rapid change.

This tension underlines what we’ve set out to discuss on; the idea that IT is being tasked with more responsibility, while having less, and is faced with mounting business pressures. A new conversation needs to happen to bring technology executives to the strategic process and not just give them a seat at the table. How can they enable their organization to enhance as fast as change itself?

Research featured here on this website shows 75 percent of CEOs think strategic CIO involvement is key in business success and, in the companies where both CEO and CIO are aligned, we see those organizations performing at 2:1 differential than those that don’t have an agreement.

Our research also suggests that less than a third of CEOs think their CIOs are “above average.” And of that group, only 40 percent of CEOs think their CIO is knowledgeable enough about their business to provide true strategic differentiation. While the catchphrase in IT has been “alignment,” it is clear that CEOs are moving past that idea. They are now demanding synthesis.

There is another dynamic that has occurred as more consumers become comfortable with technology – CEOs don’t know a lot about technology, but they do understand tablets and smartphones. They have started to ask how to use ideas like Cloud and mobility to change how to run the business, better connect with partners and become more intimate with customers.

Brian Adams added that the quickest way to make people fall asleep is to talk about servers, storage and network uptime—and Forbes’ added fiscal policy. The panel recognized the opportunity is “now” to have the conversation about business outcomes, and not tactical, technical know-how.

A special “thank you” to Steve Forbes, Steve O’Brien, Brian Adams and Angelia Herrin for a great conversation that will continue to spur thoughts and reactions.

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