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Changing of landscape – will IT learn to sell business value and not technology?

I started my career in IT almost twenty years ago. And even then, coming from non-technical background, I actually studied history and sociology, I always looked at IT as a mean to achieve bigger business value – at that time mostly through better efficiency. After ten and some years, my career took me to new challenges in management, company restructuring and exploring very different industries from telecommunications to retail, learning along the way how banking system and wealth management business is functioning and having a glimpse into food-supplement environment.

But after spending last decade in constant state of solving something, I decided to try to come back to my beginnings and rebuild my career in technology oriented environment, where I could spend my time in my favorite areas sales and adding value with technology supported solutions, something I was missing when faced with offered solutions, when I was on the other side, at customer premises.

I am now actively looking for opportunities, talking to companies and friends, that are part of this industry, to get a better picture of where I can be involved in order for me to offer best value to employer or partner and that they can offer me proper development and compensation. And in this active looking I got into interesting conversations, that made me think about change that is happening and why so many strong IT companies I knew ten years ago aren’t what they use to be.

I got two big messages:

  • First – IT industry is dead, they just don’t accept it yet.
  • Second – sales persons in IT companies are afraid to talk to business people, since they don’t feel comfortable in business-oriented conversation, so they are keeping their mode of operations inside IT departments.

Those messages made sense. And state of IT companies made sense.

With movement of technology trends into cloud computing, on-demand capacity planning, out-sourcing of special knowledges like revisions, security, reliability, infrastructure part of technology is moving from closed silos of technological genius into service that is offered in most comfortable way to every customer, undependably on their knowledge level. Complexity is becoming biggest deal breaker for end-users and business all around the world.

In application and solution field, changes are even bigger. Time of big, complex solutions, that allowed little integrations and could only be developed by companies with strong financial background to support long development cycles, is gone. Changes of business landscape, stronger competition, speed of changes, development of mobile access that is allowing more and more connection to internet everywhere, automatization, digitalization, demand for data based insights as ground for business decision, growth of data streams, IoT development, all those changes moved companies to demand solutions that will bring them agility, better insight from their consumer data, better management of their assets, improve efficiency of their sales and marketing teams, improve efficiency of their back office, improve their cooperation with outside partners, streamline their processes, enable them to offer better services or products, improve their brand awareness, shorten their R&D process and we could name other demands also.

And all those demands, that business is facing every day, can be addressed with newly developed technology. But demand is not coming from IT, we have moved from time of specialist, where IT presented technology and business learned how to cope with it. We are living in a world where all business persons are enabled consumers. With almost unlimited access to all information and with technology entering everyday life with a speed that is almost unthinkable, the demand routes are changing. And IT industry is not reacting quickly enough on these changes. This is leading to a rise of niche players, that are finding answers to customers questions quickly and that are using approach that incorporates changed landscape of digital footprint and different information seeking patterns of customers. If we add also better knowledge of digitally supported development models, from this new niche players, we can easily say, that they are on way to take big chunks of business away from classical IT companies.

So, I guess the final answer about who is going to take control of IT business, should be based on ability of who can find answer on business question and not technology one. IT should regain its role as business development industry, where development of technology is based on business demands, where you partner with your customer on solution level and you take care of their technology in a way that is efficient and cost-effective. By doing that you enable customers to develop new business practices, give them competitive edge with improving cost structure and process efficiency, but you also offer them constant development platform, that is flexible and agile, so that they would not be left behind by competition, that will use new technologies to disturb their industries.

If IT is to do that, their sales force should evolve into business advisors, using new technologies that they sell also for their better insight and efficiency. In on-demand world, leads will be created differently, sales process and stages will be disturbed by abundance of information, speed and decision-making will on other hand fasten and with rise of cloud computing, shared economy, digital content, business will move into recurring revenue streams more than transaction based.

It is a little bit like game of start-ups and corporations, how to match agility and creativity with robust business practices. Two players running towards the same goal from different sides and a question if they both come there, will they share the prize, or will the winner take it all. Or will they partner. By looking at the development of new partnership models around the world, last option seams very credible and as such represent another big challenge for traditional strong IT companies, demanding from them of having their DNA altered to cooperate instead of competing. But never write off companies in industry that creates changes, since they already prove their resilience, by evolving few times before, being pushed by changes. Just remember IBM moving from mainframe mentality, Microsoft moving into cloud mode, all of them accepting _AAS as a way to move forward. If they can get their sales activities upgraded, I would not write them off.

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