It is always interesting to see that in most enterprises the T in IT is considered most important or at least it gets the better part of the IT department’s budget. This is probably due to the fact that the T is always changing. In fact in order to keep the competitive edge, enterprises need to adopt new technologies, they need to embrace new technologies. Competitive edge becomes cutting edge becomes bleeding edge.
enterprise need to keep investing in the T because their T vendors have clearly
defined end-of-life dates and when the T is not supported, the enterprise is
risking its continuity.
The T is a moving
target and requires a constant stream of budget in order for the enterprise to
keep up with the competition. In order to control the constant stream of budget
and being able to manage the changes in the enterprise due to new and improved T’s we define projects to migrate from one T to another, to stay up to date
with our T and to assess our maturity with respect to the T.
I think most people understand the T more than the I as well.
In many enterprises
the T is treated as an asset, it is considered a business’ capital, where it is
only a tool. But we forget about this. Because it is so dynamic, so hard to
capture, to restrain and harness it keeps us preoccupied and we forget about
the I in IT. Whereas the I is the asset. Without the I there would be no IT.
the I should typically not change at all, there is no end-of-life for the I. Where the T
will have to change constantly, the I cannot be allowed to change. Once it is fixed and considered
correct, we need to keep it fixed in order to keep it being correct. And where
we do whatever we can to change the T, where we spend as much as possible to
change the T to keep up with the competition, we spend close to nothing to
maintain the I, to keep the I stable, fixed and correct. All the new T we introduce
in our enterprise, is directly or indirectly harming the integrity of the I,
yet we fail to prevent the T from impacting the I. The T is no longer there to
improve the I, to enrich the I, to make the I the added value of the
enterprise. In many enterprises the T transcended from the means to the end.
We have become so
dependent on the T that every change in the T is controlled, the T is governed
by processes, forms, people and standards in varying orders of importance
depending on the maturity of the enterprise.
It is ironic that the T was once introduced for the I to benefit from. Enterprises were all about the I in those days, but the T took over, it’s dynamic nature made it more
interesting, less boring than the I. Its dynamic nature made us govern its
changes. It became our object of expenditure. The I was forgotten, a second
class citizen in the enterprise. But it is the dynamic nature of the T that
makes it less of an asset in the enterprise, every investment in the T is by
its very nature not a long term investment. All of a sudden a short ROI is important
for every change in the T, because it is not an asset. The T is an opportunity,
one that depreciates more and more rapidly as we are more and more dependent on
the T to keep the competitive edge.
The I is hardly
changing at all. It is growing in size and forms, but once it’s here, it’s here
to stay. The I never changes, it’s location may change but the I itself doesn’t
change, the I therefore is an asset must be considered an asset. The I is long term planning and as with all
long term planning in order to make sense, in order to be fruitful it requires
to be well thought through, to be looked at from any angle and it needs to be
handled with great care. It needs to be governed.
Back to reality.
I've been most of my professional life contracted or employed by financial
institutions and I think that over the last 2000 years the way banks operate
hasn’t drastically changed. The advancements in technologies has made banking more efficient and has provided us with more and more ways to get in
touch with customers but the essence of banking hasn’t changed. People
trust banks with their money and they trust others with this money. Banks have invented
interest and interest rates in order to implement a viable business.
When one looks
closely at the different banks all over the globe they mainly
differentiate by the level of service offered to their customers and where it is
relevant the reputation of the bank in the market it operates in, be it a
geographical market or a business market.
The advancements in
technology in the last decade have turned financial systems into commodities,
where software companies can develop generic solutions for financial markets in
a far more cost effective way than these financial institutions can. Due to this
commoditization of technology in the financial sector, it becomes more and more
difficult for enterprises in this market to differentiate by the level of
service without exclusivity. Nowadays every bank has an online presence and the
maturity of the bank defines the diversity of its online presence (internet,
phone, mobile, smart-phone apps, etc). Because of this, the technology they have
at their disposal does no longer provide a means to differentiate them from their
competition. It no longer can provide them with a competitive edge, it can merely
streamline their processes and polish their image.
These days they have to
differentiate from competitors by the amount of information they have about their
customers in the context of the customer’s world. The customer wants to know his
complete financial situation. He wants to know his exact position, but also the
bandwidth of his credit. And he also wants to know this in the context of his
current situation. For example, he is abroad and needs to pay a hotel bill, he
will not be interested in the amount of money in his savings account, but he
will be interested in the limits of his credit cards. But when this same
customer is back from vacation he will be less interested in his credit limits,
but will be more interested in his expenses for each of his methods of
payments. He will be interested in what is paid by which credit card, what is
paid for by debit card, when and where does he use an ATM and how much did he
take from the ATM. He will want to know what bills are being paid and how much
each bill was. What are recurring payments and is there in trend in the amounts
of these payments.
It is not technology
that he wants from his bank, but information. As a bank, people traditionally trust them with their money and in an ever more digitized world, they trust banks with
their data about their financial situation. It is up to banks to turn this data
into relevant information for their customers. In order to do this efficiently
and to provide the services to their customers efficiently they need technology. The competitive edge is in the fact that a bank can turn this data into information
for their customers that is relevant in different situations.
Meanwhile, the same
data is used to streamline the internal processes and allow for better analysis
of the financial markets and the general business a bank is in. Customer data
is the micro level information that is important in understanding macro level
economies as long as it is in abundance. After all the financial business is
more than anything else a business of people and their trust. And accurate information
is the cornerstone of this trust.