Monday, January 15, 2018

The Symphonic Enterprise

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A renowned music conductor once said that an orchestra full of stars can be a disaster. There is no reason to believe that the maestro was speaking metaphorically. His observation suggests something universal: Without unity and harmony, discord prevails.
Many organizations that are being turned upside down by technology innovation are no strangers to discord. Digital reality, cognitive capability, and blockchain are redefining IT, business, and society in general. Organizations typically responded to such disruptive opportunities by launching transformation initiatives within technology domains. Domain specific cloud, analytics, and big data projects represented bold, even if single minded embraces of the future. C-suite positions such as “Chief Digital Officer” or “Chief Analytics Officer” reinforced the primacy of domain thinking.

It must be obvious that treating some systems as independent domains is suboptimal at best. Complex predictive analytics capabilities delivered little or no value without big data. Big data was expensive and ineffective without the cloud. Everything required mobile capabilities. After a decade of domain specific transformation, one question remains: How can disruptive technologies work together to achieve larger strategic and operational goals?

We are now seeing some forward-thinking organizations approach change more broadly. They are not repeating the mistakes of the past by launching separate, domain specific initiatives. Instead, they are thinking about exploration, use cases, and holistic deployment, focusing on how disruptive technologies can complement each other to drive greater value. Blockchain can serve as a new foundational protocol for trust throughout the enterprise and beyond. Digital reality breaks down geographic barriers between people, and systemic barriers between humans and data. These technologies together can fundamentally reshape how work gets done, or set the stage for new products and business models.

It is time to think of organizations as symphonic enterprises, an idea that describes strategy, technology, and operations working together. Already, the earlier trends such as the digital cloud and analytics are now embraced across industries. More recent trends such as autonomous platforms, machine intelligence, and digital reality, continue to gain momentum.

It is time to look at emerging technology trends from a different angle. When technologies act in unison, we no longer see the enterprise vertically (focused on line of business or isolated industries) or horizontally (focused on business processes or enabling technologies). In the symphonic enterprise, the old lines become blurred, thus creating a diagonal that illuminates new business opportunities and creative ways of solving problems. For example, in the near future, digitized finance and supply chain organizations could blur the lines between the two functions. Consider the following scenario:

IOT sensors on the factory floor generate data that supply chain managers use to optimize shipping and inventory processes. When supply chain operations become more efficient and predictable, finance can perform more accurate forecasting and planning. In turn, this allows dynamic pricing or adjustments to cash positions based on real-time visibility of operations. Indeed, the two functions begin sharing investments in next-generation ERP, the Internet of Things, machine learning, and RPA. Together, finance and supply chain functions shift from projects to platforms, which expands the potential frame of impact. Meanwhile, business leaders and the C-suite are increasingly interested only in strategy and outcomes, not the individual technologies that drive them. Does the convergence of finance and supply chain really seem so unlikely?

Some domain specific approaches remain valuable. Core assets still underpin the IT ecosystem. Cyber and risk protocols are as critical as ever. CIO strategies for “running the business of IT” are valuable and timeless. Yet, we should also recognize a larger trend at work, one that emphasizes the unified “orchestra” over individual advances in technology.

We hope technology can help you begin building a symphonic enterprise of your own.

The music is bound to be beautiful and timeless.
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