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Technology Disruption and the Business By @EFeatherston | @CloudExpo #Cloud

Maneuvering through the deadly ‘hand mines’ discussions

I was recently watching one of my favorite science fiction TV shows (I'll confess, ‘Dr. Who'). In classic dystopian fashion, there was a scene in which a young boy is running for his life across some barren ground in a war-ravaged world. One of his compatriots calls out to him to freeze, not to move another inch. The compatriot warns the young boy that he's in a field of hand mines (no, that is not a typo, he did say hand mines). Slowly, dull gray hands with eyes in the palm start emerging from the ground around the boy and the compatriot. Suddenly, one of the hands grabs the compatriot and pulls him into a whirlpool of dirt in the ground, disappearing from sight, lost forever.

While the visual may sound a little silly, how many of us have experienced discussions that felt like you had walked into a field of hand mines? You may not even notice the hand mines at first. You are having a great discussion with the business, when someone mentions the latest disruptive technology in the news, whether it be cloud, mobile, Big Data or social. The topic could seem innocuous at first, but the hand mine is rising up. Before you realize it's happened, the conversation had been grabbed, and dragged down into that whirlpool of dirt. Trying to get back on track becomes a struggle; you attempt to pull the conversation out of the dirt, but the hand mine keeps pulling it back in. How did it happen? Better yet, how does one get out of the minefield?

Striking the balance, technology and business
The problem stems from the tendency to drop into a purely-technology-for-technology-sake discussion. We love to talk about shiny new toys, whether you are a business professional or a technologist. This is especially true with all the consumerization and hype surrounding the various disruptive technologies. How often have you heard someone say, ‘We need to go the cloud' or ‘Why aren't we doing Big Data, everyone is, we need to do Big Data.' This is usually followed by a descent into the latest technical capability someone read about or heard about. Can you feel that tickle at your ankle, the hand mine reaching out?

There is no disputing that technologies, such as cloud, Big Data, mobile, and social media, have fundamental and disruptive impact across the business. The challenge is in striking a balance. Technology is not, and should never be, the destination. Technology is a tool, it's a vehicle. The destination should always be about the business, providing business value. Technology is the vehicle to get to the destination, but you need to know where you are going before deciding how to get there. How, as a technologist, do we maneuver through those hand mines, and help demonstrate value to the business?

Example, ‘We need to go to the cloud'
Let's take a concrete example, a conversation/statement many of us are probably very familiar with. While discussing new technologies and how they can help the business, you need the business context, the potential business value. Without that you can't determine if the technology is the right vehicle to get you there. In this example, you can maneuver through the minefield starting with the question, ‘As a business, what do you want to get from the cloud?' You can follow with questions such as:

  • Are you looking to improve the customer experience?
  • Do you want to drive operational efficiency and cost savings from pay as you use resources?
  • Are you are looking to expand and innovate for greater business agility and faster time to market?
  • Are you looking for better scalability, adapt to increase or decreases in resource demands?

Defining why gets you much closer to the how and the what. You can even get into specific technical capabilities, but always provide the business context and potential value to the business.

Getting out of the minefield, keep your eye on the business destination
Anytime the discussion turns to a technology without a business context, take it as a warning sign. It's a potential hand mine. Maneuvering around these hand mines is best accomplished by keeping your eye on the business value, the actual destination the technology vehicle can help you reach. As technologists, it's our responsibility to ensure that focus is maintained. By doing so we demonstrate the true value to the business, avoid the hand mine dangers, and work in true partnership with the business.

This post is brought to you by The CIO Agenda.

KPMG LLP is a Delaware limited liability partnership and is the U.S. member firm of the KPMG network of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative ("KPMG International"), a Swiss entity. The KPMG name, logo and "cutting through complexity" are registered trademarks or trademarks of KPMG International. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of KPMG LLP.

More Stories By Ed Featherston

Ed Featherston is VP, Principal Architect at Cloud Technology Partners. He brings 35 years of technology experience in designing, building, and implementing large complex solutions. He has significant expertise in systems integration, Internet/intranet, and cloud technologies. He has delivered projects in various industries, including financial services, pharmacy, government and retail.

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