Boardroom priorities in 2015: Can IT deliver?

Constellation Research outlines the top boardroom priorities for 2015 and not surprisingly digital transformation is a common theme. Can tech leaders deliver results?

Business leaders for 2015 are focusing their transformation projects on digital presence as well as delivering a consistent customer experience across all channels, according to a Constellation Research survey of 200 CXOs.

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The survey was designed to highlight boardroom priorities and how they affect technology investment and leadership. Some of the takeaways from the survey are already visible. For instance, several retailers have announced that they plan to close stores. The savings will be invested in omnichannel and digital strategies.

Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation, noted in a research report:

While boards have not been complacent about addressing change, the past five years have shown the difference between those who invested in digital transformation and those who have not. The corporate digital chasm is massive among market leaders/fast followers and everyone else. Astute board members realize they must invest in transformational change or face a vicious Digital Darwinism.

This Darwinism will be interesting to watch largely because a lot of corporations are already late and trying to play catch up. In addition, these corporations---like most enterprises---are saddled with technical debt and legacy infrastructure that gobbles up budget but doesn't set the company apart from the competition.

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Here's a look at Constellation's top boardroom priorities for 2015 and my take.

  • Investment in digital presence. Constellation notes that digital personas represent the brand, but also expand on the brick and mortar experience. Digital presence goes beyond advertising and spans the entire customer experience. My take: The companies that have invested early in their digital presence have a lead, but it's unclear what happens to everyone else. Not all of these investments will work and execution is likely to get spotty. Tech vendors are promising magic bullets, but if every company is on the same bandwagon it's going to be tough for anyone to pull away.
  • Consistent customer experience. Constellation noted that companies need to focus on lifetime customer value regardless of the sales channel. My take: There are multiple companies talking about design thinking and user experience. Again, the bandwagon is crowded.
  • Digital transformation of the business. Leaders are investing in disruptive technologies to change their business models. My take: There are a lot of examples percolating such as John Deere using the Internet of things. Disruption is possible, but I'd bet that the technologies will be home grown and very industry specific. In other words, don't count on your friendly neighborhood tech vendor to save you.
  • Rapid response to non-traditional competitors. Companies are forming SWAT teams to protect turfs, according to Constellation. My take: The reason that larger companies are disruptive isn't that they don't see the threat. These giants are too bloated to move. Identifying potential responses is one thing. Actually responding is another.
  • Creation of insights driven business model. Constellation says organizations will get 20 percent of their revenue growth from big data by 2020. My take: I'm expecting a big data backlash to occur as everyone hops in the data lake. Me too projects don't equal insight or jaw dropping returns.
  • Prioritize development of a high performance culture. Companies will compete to talent for top 10 percent performers. My take: Indeed, talent wars will be the norm---especially when you need people to develop technology internally to win your industry.
  • Readiness for inorganic growth. The boardroom is looking for organizations that can integrate mergers and acquisitions and accelerate initiatives. My take: Mergers will continue to happen and most of them are likely to continue to stumble. I have a hard time believing that companies will build a platform to integrate acquisitions when they're still digesting the last dozen or so purchases.
  • Mass automation. Constellation argues that leaders will invest in the Internet of things and augmented humanity. My take: Machine learning will meet customer experience. What's unclear is what 2015 brings in terms of actual real-world uses.
  • Efficiency in post-merger integration. How fast will companies cross sell, cut costs and grow share? My take is the same as it was for the inorganic growth point.
  • Cost reduction of regulatory and security compliance. Constellation rightly notes that costs need to be cut to address various regulatory requirements. My take: The question that haunts enterprise IT is how much of all that security spending is a) efficient and b) stealing funds from other key projects.

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