Changing the Game – concerns at SAP Sapphire in Vienna

Been talking to a lot of people, Business and IT, and there is a pretty constant picture emerging. There is a general feeling that it’s not a case of ‘business as usual’, things are changing, but what are these things, and what is changing? That’s not so easy to answer, and that’s maybe a root cause for the sense of unease that also seems to be common. Good management is to figure out the key issue and focus on resolving it.
A ‘sea change’ is a term in English used to indicate a period when everything is changing at the same time, and seems to fit the circumstances, and I don’t just mean in technology towards the adoption of SOA and Web 2.0. After talking this over with a lot of different people I think I can see three recognisable macro trends.

The first is the issue of Globalisation; changing what we do where, and with whom, and as a result changing markets, competitors, and of course our own companies, (read off-shoring for the IT services industry). The second is how People are changing both in their relationship with technology, and in their expectations in the way they expect to use technology, both at home as a consumer as well as at work. The third is ‘Technology’ itself, and is the most confusing of the three. On one hand it is the driver of the first two changes, and on the other, it doesn’t seem to be the same as the existing IT technologies.
And of course it isn’t; the shift is from focusing on ‘internal’ business requirements delivered by IT to suit the unique circumstances that arise internally, to ‘external’ business based on interacting with other businesses, and customers through the use of ‘standards’. How does a ‘cost driven’ IT department focussed on delivering the procedures and processes that will largely result in the data that runs the business financials, change to being aware of these new standards?
More accurately perhaps the question ought to be; how do business managers work out what they should be doing to ‘trade’ external markets better. And that’s the real question that I am struggling with; solve this and I believe IT people will be able to research how to do this with new products, tools and techniques, but right now I don’t see the answer. There seem to be three basic possibilities; industry standards bodies; business schools or, and the most popular, looking to see what the latest competitors are doing. The last could be a classic case of ‘too little, too late’ reaction, whereas the other two are at least pro-active.
Why I am I thinking about this? Because research based on the attendees at SAP Sapphire Vienna event said clearly that it was on their minds. It was less a case of ‘how’ to ‘change the game’ to suit new challenges; plenty of answers in products in the exhibition halls and sessions for that, but ‘who’ will help me define how to do it. The only answer is ‘hybrids’ that grasp both the technology capabilities and can see how to apply to redefine business markets externally as opposed to internal business processes.
What would you put in their job spec as critical skills?

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