Don’t fumble the future…the legendary Bruce Rogow talks to HfS, Part III


“Now, suddenly, CIOs have to be very creative, they have to adjust to these new challenges, they have to deal with ambiguity”

–Bruce Rogow, November 2013

And we can bring our superlative discussion with Bruce “hand-brake released” Rogow to a conclusion with one very frightening warning to all technology leaders…. don’t fumble the future!

Phil Fersht (HfS):  Bruce, what do you think visitors from 10 years into the future will think of us if they came back for a gander?

Bruce J. Rogow (IT Odyssey & Advisory):  The 80’s taught me that most organizations will adapt. It may be very painful though. For my view of what It will need to become, here are some relatively radical ideas. First, I think that IT will have a merchandising function. And by that I mean it’s going to try to figure out what technologies are out there, and what ways IT should bring them into the enterprise to add value. It will be very much like a merchandising manager at Home Depot decides what goes on the shelves. IT’s second role will be brand management, being able to consumerize services and present them to end users in a way where they are literally building brand equity. Third, IT won’t be able to successfully manage brands unless it has service management, so the whole idea of how they do service management, and what those services will be, Next, although most firms have a PMO, I think we’ll see a growth in asset management to the extent that they will also have an AMO function. Informatics is another weak area in which companies aren’t getting enough value.

Bruce being kept in line by his missus, Winnie

But I have a terrible concern that with everything going on right now, we can fumble the future. So we must have some type of underlying architecture and operating platform to bring all of these pieces together in some coherent fashion. If you’re asking what an IT organization is going to be…it’s not going to be about developing or running a business center or network, it’s going to be in these more value added roles.

Another thing that bothers me is the attitude of many CIOs. There hasn’t been a need for someone to talk to for many CIOs of the past two decades. However, going forward, most CIOs need a confidant they can talk to, test ideas and push back. Yet, when I ask many CIOs who performs that role, they tell me they don’t need anyone like that, go to a conference, get feedback from their existing vendors or talk to other CIOs. This isn’t an attempt on my part to solicit clients. I’m fully engaged.

Phil: So… what is your final piece of advice for today’s aspiring IT professionals looking out at their long-term careers?

Bruce :  The first thing is, despite everything I’ve said here, they have to start and end with security, control of the asset base, privacy in the data, and assurance of the service. Everything else I’ve said is added on top of that. Effectively, they’re going to have to sort out the way in which they convert from their current base. Recognize that base has pretty much been abandoned by the vendors and the outsourcers, and figure out how, over the next five, ten, or 15 years, do they move to this new platform?

Next, I think they have to create a template and an architecture as an onramp and a way in which they rethink the governance structures for how these things are going to come into the enterprise. For example, mid-range companies I visit are really into mobility. I actually have one small firm, a $200 million company, with 150 mobile apps on the shop floor and in engineering. Everyone from the manufacturing engineers to machine operators to the forklift drivers have apps that make them much more productive. Their on-time shipments are up and there’s a reduction in waste which has more than paid for the investments out of yearly budgets. And then I go visit a big company and they’ve been spending a year trying to evaluate whether to go Mobile Iron or Ironwatch for their MDM. Now, I believe they’re going to spend another year developing mobile policies before they even start to deploy. Talking to all these big companies, I’m reminded of 1982 arguments we had about whether Profs from IBM or All-in-One from Digital was going to be the future. And I remember one of my clients being absolutely convinced it was neither, and he chose Wang. So when I listen to these folks taking a year to evaluate something…you may make a mistake, but you have to do something and start the learning process.

Phil: Bruce, when you’re not thinking about technology or writing? Are you trying to enjoy any form of retirement at all?

Bruce:  I’m not made for retirement. I tried it once and drove my wonderful wife nearly nuts. I do a little bit of boating and golfing. I’m blessed with a spectacular family and an EA, Ruth who optimizes my life. But I really enjoy talking to these people. In addition to the 120+ IT Odyssey visits, I probably do 60 dinners and lunches a year with these folks, and there’s just so much to learn from other people’s perspectives. So I think my hobby is just trying to understand how other people think. We are back in most exciting times and I am thrilled to still be involved in this great endeavor of IT. And yes, I do like sports…I’m a Red Sox fan, a Patriots fan, and I like the Bruins. It’s a good year in Boston this year 🙂

Phil: Thanks so much for spending time with us Bruce.  I know our readers will love digesting your insights.

Bruce Rogow (pictured above) runs his own advisory practice, IT Odyssey & Advisory.  Each year, he visits with over 120 executives, academics and consultants involved in the management of IT.  He is also a Gartner Executive Programs research affiliate, with four decades of experience that have included roles with IBM and Gartner group, where he served as head of worldwide research.  You can view his bio here

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