Firms need management overhaul to cope with future demands

Existing command-and-control mindset should give way to "guard rails" system in which parameters guide stakeholders in IT project discussions and implementation, analyst urges.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Growing IT savviness among employees, move toward enterprise-ready self-service technologies as well as a radically more complex business environment are three factors that will shape the industry in 2020. As such, companies need to shift away from a top-down, command-and-control business culture to a more collaborative, consultative "guard rails" system of management.

Dane Anderson, vice president and region manager of Asia-Pacific at Forrester Research, said the three main forces will force companies to relook their management culture. These changes include enterprise-class self-service technologies, an empowered IT-savvy workforce, and a business environment that is rapidly becoming more complex.

Speaking at Verizon Global Media Forum held here Tuesday, Anderson explained that the move toward self-service technology is already apparent today with employees bringing their personal mobile computing devices to the workplace. This bring-your-own-device trend will continue to grow as more "Millenials", or people below the age of 30, enters the workforce as this demographic perceives their personal devices to be more advanced and able to help them to be more productive, compared to the computers assigned to them at work, he explained.

Furthermore, with cloud computing maturing, such offerings will make it easy for companies to procure their IT needs from third-party vendors without having to invest in developing the capability internally, the analyst said. He cited a Forrester survey which showed that 10 percent of companies had developed cloud-based apps, while 33 percent said such projects were in the pipeline.

An increasingly tech-savvy workforce will also force IT departments to be more amenable to user requests, Anderson pointed out. Quoting another Forrester survey, he noted that 22 percent of employees surveyed said they bought their own Web-based app or service to more effectively do their work and, in doing so, bypassing the IT team.

Elaborating on the third driving force, he said macroeconomic issues will bring about a more complex business landscape. For instance, China's Purchasing Power Parity is expected to surpass the United States by 2020 and this will shift the global economic balance of power, he noted. Other issues include increasing energy prices, which will impact the cost of manufacturing, and growing population of new consumers looking out for new products at different price points, he added.

From command to consultative
These three forces will mean that today's command-and-control business culture will have to give way to a more consultative, collaborative workstyle, Anderson opined.

As such, he suggested companies adopt a "guard rails" system of management in which there are "practices, rules, a navigation system and safety equipment" for companies to consider and implement. Practices, for one, refer to decentralizing the IT expertise from the tech department to the whole company, he said.

"Instead of saying 'no' immediately to requests, IT will need to start seeing these requests as opportunities rather than issues to overcome," the analyst said.

Rules encompass guidelines on areas such as data protection as well as the overall corporate responsibility and ethics, while the "safety equipments" include monitoring agents and best practices the company should adopt, he explained.

Chris Kimm, vice president of network field operations at Verizon Asia-Pacific and EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa), agreed, noting that these driving forces of change were taking place within the U.S.-based communications provider.

For example, Kimm, who was also a speaker at the forum, noted that Verizon had to undergo a mindset change when it revamped its billing system. Previously, the company built its system from the ground up, but when the time came for change, it did its due diligence and recognized that getting a third-party offering was a better alternative than developing another system from scratch, he said.

Increasing footprint in Asia
With regard to Verizon's plans in Asia-Pacific, fellow Verizon executive and forum speaker, Andrew Dobbins, noted that the company is now focusing more on Asian companies to grow its business rather than target only multinational organizations that have offices in the region, and Japan is its biggest market. 

Verizon's Asia-Pacific vice president, Dobbins, told ZDNet Asia at the conference sidelines that 60 percent to 65 percent of the company's revenue from Asia-Pacific comes from Asian companies that are looking to grow their businesses in markets such as the U.S. and United Kingdom. By targeting this customer segment, the company will also avoid ruffling too many of the regional telcos' feathers, he added.

Dobbins added that attracting and retaining talent remains the company's top concern, as there is high demand for IT professionals with specific leadership qualities. Verizon looks for candidates who are leaders in innovation as well as adept in working across multiple regions and cultures. This type of talent, he noted, is in short supply and are coveted everywhere.

Hiring the right technical specialists, on the other hand, does not pose as much of an issue as countries in the region have "done well" in training up their IT talent, the executive noted.

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