The Power of Convergence

Linking Business Strategies and Technology Decisions to Create Sustainable Success

The Power of Convergence

Author: Faisal Hoque
Pub Date: May 2011
Print Edition: $27.95
Print ISBN: 9780814416952
Page Count: 256
Format: Hardback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814416969

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Excerpt

Introduction

THE POWER OF CONVERGENCE is a call to arms; a mandate for enterprises to

place critical importance on a set of fundamental principles, eschewing

the application of technology to business for technology’s sake and putting

business strategy, objectives, and processes at the forefront of enterprise

enablement. This in turn will make them more nimble, more agile,

and better able to build differentiated, innovative, and adaptable processes

that expand their reach and grow revenue even in the most challenging

markets and conditions.

Technology is a part of everything we do. We tend to think of ‘‘technology’’

as something new and digital—state of the art. The reality is

that technology has been a part of everything we have produced since

the first humans turned stone into tools. Technology erected the Egyptian

pyramids. Technology built the Roman aqueducts. Technology invented

Chinese paper and gunpowder. Technology opened the seas to

the Spanish and Portuguese for global exploration and trade. Technology

gave spark to the industrial revolution in the British Midlands. Technology

put the wind under the Wright brothers’ wings. Technology blasted

Neil Armstrong onto the moon. And technology is the engine powering

the information age.

As the previous examples illustrate, technology has played a critical

role throughout history. Achieving success, however, has never been

about the technology itself; it has always been about the business. The

result. The accomplishment of a goal set forth by a plan. Technology is

only as good as the imagination of business leaders who are focused on

customers, markets, business models, threats, and opportunities, and

who can make technology do what they need it to do. Anyone can buy

technology, but no one can go online to order a strategy or new business

model.

The point of technology is not to serve technology itself, but to

serve the products and processes that create benefits to the user and

enterprise employing it. Technology is the means to an end, not a means

to another means. Contemporary enterprises are huge producers and

consumers of technology. Unfortunately, many enterprises fall short on

truly capitalizing on technology because they focus too much of their

resolve on the technology itself and not enough on their business objectives.

Technologists (the crafter of tools) are famous for being enamored

with their technology. They build systems that provide functionality, but

build them from their perspective rather than that of the business, department,

or user. The result is an endless list of underperforming or

failed technology implementations that rob enterprises of scarce financial,

human, and opportunity resources.

Failure to fully realize the potential of technology in business is

not solely the fault of technologists. Their business management counterparts

are equally culpable. While busily drafting plans for their next

venture, product launch, or service offering, they will often turn to their

technologist counterparts with vague concepts for systems to facilitate

the execution of their strategies. Between the two sides is a vacuum of

absent management structure, performance indicators, communication,

and governance that prevents them from truly finding common ground

in the development, adoption, implementation, and optimization of

technology that will produce a true business benefit in the form of optimized

processes, cost reduction, and new revenue opportunity.

Why does this disconnect exist? It’s mostly due to assumption.

Business managers, ignorant of technology functions and capabilities,

assume technologists will appreciate their needs and fulfill their desires

with systems that produce the optimal intent. Technologists, on the

other hand, rarely fully appreciate the business needs of the enterprise,

department, or individual. They develop systems and tools that may address

the stated need, and will add—or omit—functionality that they

assume the end user will—or won’t—need or want. In other words,

business managers assume that they’re communicating when they’re

actually just dictating; technologists assume that business managers will

appreciate their technology when they are often just delivering greater

complexity.

This was essentially the state of technology in the enterprise more

than a decade ago when I was working on my first book, e-Enterprise:

Business Models, Architecture, and Components.1 One of the book’s fundamental

arguments was that technology is meaningless if you don’t

know how to manage it and will certainly never produce a true return

on investment if it is simply used for its intrinsic features. This realization

came from working for large corporations, as well as from being an

entrepreneur and having these corporations as customers. Guidance on

the true value of technology in the enterprise was a genuine and unmet

need, one I wanted to address. I could never have imagined how far that

desire would lead. It has become a decade-long crusade.

In company after company I have witnessed the haphazard manner

in which people managed technology, particularly technology

spending, needlessly putting their entire organization at risk. The business

principles they applied in other areas of operations were not applied

to technology. They would not think of building a new plant

without understanding exactly how it would benefit the business. But

in many firms technology was bought and deployed on a hope and a

prayer. This was the era of dot.com exuberance, of course, and there

was a madness loose in the land, but I had seen this problem in earlier,

quieter years as well.

The disconnect between business management and technology

management is not lost on enterprises. Academics, book authors, and

magazine writers frequently opine on the notion of technologists getting

‘‘a seat at the table’’ to influence management decisions and ‘‘learning

to speak business’’ with their management counterparts. Over the

last decade, management advocates have presented portfolio management,

return on technology investment methodologies, and servicelevel

performance as a means for bridging the gap between technology

and business management. But no one has looked at the problem holistically—

that is, with the understanding that whole entities—enterprises

in this discussion—have an existence other than the mere sum

of their parts. The term has become popular in speech, but is less frequently

found in practice.

The term ‘‘alignment,’’ too, has grown in prominence, but not

many firms know how to realign their operations for optimal technology

performance. Even the emergence of stringent government and industry

governance and regulatory requirements has done little to remedy the

disconnect. I am convinced that business and technology executives,

respectively, still view each other across a chasm, even if they are now

sitting at the same table. They can only succeed if, and only if, they take

off their business or technology hats and work together holistically to

build business.

To move beyond technology and find real business value, a new

framework with concrete practices and procedures to turn the amorphous

concept of alignment into reality was needed. In computing

terms, a completely new set of instructions and a reboot.

In 1999, I founded BTM Corporation with the mission of researching

and developing a set of unified management capabilities, value creation

methods, financial indicators, operational blueprints, and software

applications that create a common language for business and technology

management. We called it the Business Technology Management (BTM)

Framework. After several years we took on a limited number of customers

to test it in practice—if it had no commercial value, then it would

be nothing more than a nice theory. As it turned out, executives around

the world wrestling with real-world problems greeted the Framework

with enthusiasm.

The Framework was a fundamentally different proposition for

them. Every management team has pretty much been creating its own

approach and practices. Sometimes they worked, and sometimes they

didn’t. Now, with the BTM Framework, the haphazard art of managing

business and technology together had a chance to become a science that

would replace the grossly ineffective trial-and-error methodology that

has created inefficiency and failure. The Framework aims to unify decision

making from the boardroom to the project team. It provides a structured

approach to such decisions that enables enterprises to align,

synchronize, and converge technology and business management, thus

ensuring better execution, risk control, and profitability.

Three years after the formation of BTM Corporation we published

a book on Business Technology Management, The Alignment Effect,2

which began to attract attention among university professors who were

teaching the management science. Today more than a dozen universities

use the book in their courses. Enthusiasm among professors and industry

practitioners was strong enough that (CMM), which is a standard for software

engineering and process improvement.

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