There is a lot of talk about the change in the role of the CIO and IT; I believe the change is real, and that we need to take advantage of it. The IT function has undergone a transformation to support business internationalisation and has been a lever for what all companies have tried to do: diversify and sell in other countries during times of domestic crisis. IT provides support for business processes and has been fundamental for quickly establishing businesses abroad at reasonable costs.
When you internationalise, you must have low operating costs and procedures which are as standardised as possible in order to be able to set up offices with minimum delays. In business environments, IT has been forced to cut operating costs even though a large percentage of its costs are often fixed. As a result, cloud environments, which are now more mature, have expanded notably.
The cloud—i.e. putting some business processes online—is now a real option. At Ferrovial, we have implemented cloud solutions for human resources and procurements, with very low implementation costs and in a much shorter time scale; nevertheless, this entailed accepting the feature set of each SaaS, without trying to customise it for our company; this was the approach we adopted in processes that are not classified as mission-critical. For those processes in which differentiation is an asset, we developed custom solutions.
Some (like myself) believe that innovation could be a new function of the CIO: we know the business processes and have the technology that catalyses many innovations. It’s important to keep an open mind to accept solutions that come from outside the company and to seek ways to collaborate with external parties. Social media can be extremely helpful by serving as a vehicle for exchanging ideas. Well-executed social media, i.e. with a business approach, results in a flow of ideas from outside and offers a space in which to share new ways of doing business. Social media are a barometer for all external topics and definitely merit consideration.
Another hot topic is big data. We are at a unique moment: we have the internet, multiple data from diverse sources, and analysis tools. It’s difficult to think of a business that couldn’t benefit from so much information in such a short time. We can forecast almost everything—demographic shifts, tastes, demand for services, consumer spending, and any business can leverage this to its benefit with the right tools and analysis. Ownership and the right to use the data is currently a grey area, and this situation will persist for some years until we have more universal regulation of the internet.
As always, from a position of prudent optimism, we must consider the risks inherent to any solution, and the need for security; such risks are on the rise in every company and may result in certain processes and information posing a business challenge; consequently, we believe that IT security budgets will rise in the coming years.
For those of us who tend to see the glass as half full, I would also like to highlight the surge in new ideas from start-ups. I say this because many people think start-ups come about because people can’t find jobs, or to develop an idea in order to create a job. We have many wonderful start-ups—albeit with little support and with insufficient funding and accelerators; they contribute to the business fabric, creating knowledge, ingenuity and employment in the future.
Those of us attending the leading start-up forums feel nothing but respect for the intelligence and imagination that these companies are putting at the service of society, and the good ideas that abound in Spain. I can only express my admiration. In short, I see opportunities, new ways of doing business, more relationships, and the enormous possibility of being richer in talent—which is the source of future progress. Welcome to this change in IT.
This article was originally published in Business Value Exchange.