The life of the CIO has been like a roller coaster in recent years. The strategic importance of information was probably only really appreciated in the 90s, when the CIO became a more common term than IT Director. It was then that the value of the information, and what a company did with it, became more important than the technology itself.
But in recent years, the CIO has seen cloud-based systems take over. So long as business teams had access to the Internet they could subscribe to pay as you go business services offering everything from CRM to ERP to data storage – software as a service. It seemed like the IT department was offering little of strategic significance for many companies, other than ensuring the business teams can access their Internet-based services.
Now catch up into the present and it seems that some organisations are thinking again about their IT infrastructure because the strong core approach is becoming a popular way to approach the way that technology is organised inside the enterprise. But what is the core, beyond just offering a secure network?
The core approach offers security, but also APIs into all business applications that the company uses, a single way to share data across applications, and a stable environment where automation/bots and tools such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can be applied. In short, the enterprise creates a core for data and applications and benefits from being able to share data across teams. This also offers the opportunity to automate processes and create efficiencies that are impossible if each individual department is just deploying cloud-based business solutions.
The digital core should in fact be a core for driving improved customer engagement with the business. By creating opportunities to manage enterprise data more effectively, insights can be created and customers can experience a far more personal service – the enterprise finds efficiency, but the customer experience is also improved.
Building a core requires a consistent approach to building a central platform, sharing APIs, applications that can work together, and data that can be shared and analysed. It requires an enterprise-wide approach to managing data and applications, which sounds a bit like the old days of central control from the CIO office, but the insights and efficiencies that can be achieved from this approach should outweigh any loss of autonomy for individual business units. In fact, individual business managers can continue to select and deploy their own software solutions so long as they can be plugged into the core system. Flexibility should still be promoted.
We are moving back to an environment where the CIO matters once again. Have you explored the core in your own enterprise yet?