The anytime, anyplace enterprise

Customers, employees and partners expect to interact with their suppliers, employers and advisers when, where and how they like. Enterprise CIOs can deliver enhanced business performance and innovation for their firms by combining existing IT assets in conjunction with emerging consumer technologies.

Companies have successfully extended their reach by employing intermediaries: 24/7 call centers and field sales forces. But this way of connecting is considered old hat now. The interactive enterprise is different: it seeks to engage customers, partners and employees directly as well as indirectly through a middleman.

Extending the enterprise does not require significant new technologies. Rather, it combines enterprise and consumer technologies in new ways. As CIOs embark on anytime, anyplace projects, they generally come to realize that the primary obstacles are culture and policies, not technology. CIOs interviewed by Gartner EXP researchers overcame these obstacles by careful phasing.

They began the move toward anytime, anyplace interactions within the IT department itself. They followed an existing IT process or policy, such as collaboration or work-at-home guidelines, to keep the scope of the project internal to IT. And they worked within the existing technology portfolio. Once they gained experience with their respective initiatives, they quantified their success in both hard and soft terms.

The CIOs then instituted viral marketing campaigns, using word-of-mouth communication and opinion shapers internally to expose project benefits to peers and encourage the spread of news about the innovation. These messages eventually trickled up to the executive suite with many intrigued executives asking how to get “hooked up” themselves.

Embracing consumer IT

Rather than fight the charge that they are succumbing to the consumerization of IT, successful interactive enterprises embrace consumer IT. They expect those inside the company to welcome the same types of devices, networks and data stores that work so well in the outside world.

In planning the move to an interactive enterprise, CIOs should look within their own enterprise environment, identifying and assessing the level of interactivity users have already brought to bear. Once identified and assessed, existing consumer technologies can add leverage to interactive initiatives.

Efficiency gains from an anytime, anyplace culture arise from the streamlining of tasks and the location extension of the workplace. Although efficiency gains tend to combine information from disparate processes using mobile communications, they don’t normally entail collaboration. Which anytime, anyplace functions they do exploit usually involves some sort of mobile device connecting a person to a 24/7 system.

Effectiveness can be defined as the return on newly deployed assets. To move beyond basic efficiency gains, device types, data stores and security measures often must be added. An even higher level of effectiveness occurs by broadening the constituent base to include customers, partners and suppliers. Similarly, additional layers of information can be made available to the customer via an extranet.

The important benefits are timeliness and accuracy of both supply and demand information; efficiency in communications, both synchronous and asynchronous; and a new customer-supplier business relationship that dramatically drives down the cost of goods based on a nearly real-time, on-demand replenishment cycle.

Complete transformation to an interactive enterprise is an evolutionary process that can follow varying paths. But all interactive enterprises have one thing in common: they have applied an anytime, anyplace strategy to design their interactive scenarios and become more competitive.

In allowing users to personalize existing products and services on their end with added-value solutions of their own choosing, the interactive enterprise creates business opportunities that enhance the value proposition of previously commoditized products and services. This margin-enhancing capacity can have a game-changing effect on the business.

The game, however, doesn’t end here; nor does it stop changing. CIOs should be prepared to closely observe interactive-enterprise initiatives and encourage them to grow, internally and externally. Just as end-user behavior and feedback have confirmed the value of consumer applications and online services and led to their improvement, CIOs must look to their stakeholders for guidance toward the next generation of interactive-enterprise innovations. Quicklink 085985

Andrew Rowsell-Jones is vice president and research director for Gartner’s CIO Executive Programs.

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