What Accenture means when it talks about ‘multi-speed IT’

Here’s a quick rendition of what Accenture’s “multi-speed IT” might sound like:

“We need to make a mobile app for our customers.” “The server is down again!” “This marketing database thing needs to be replaced — like, yesterday.” “The server is down AGAIN.”

Though you could imagine it as some nightmarish Greek chorus haunting a CIO’s dreams, that surge of demands from different areas of the business is growing with increasing urgency, the consulting firm suggests in its recent report. On the other hand, ‘Gearing Up for Growth Using Multi-speed IT’ showed some interesting discrepancies between the reality of the challenges and how firms felt IT departments could handle this juggling act.

For example, “71 per cent of executives expressed confidence that they or their IT organization could operate and simultaneously support multiple business objectives,” the report said. “Yet, when asked about organizations in general, 81 percent of executives stated that most IT organizations do not know how to operate effectively while supporting multiple objectives at the same time.”

In an interview with CanadianCIO, Accenture Strategy managing director Nicholas Bayley suggested multi-speed IT doesn’t happen overnight. It creeps up on CIOs as customer needs start changing more rapidly, startups or unforeseen competitors begin disrupting an industry or channels like smartphones, wearables and the Internet of Things emerge. An uncertain economy is also having an impact, he said.

Nicholas Bayley,  Accenture Strategy
Nicholas Bayley,
Accenture Strategy

“A lot of companies are trying to reinvigorate their flagging brands and services, while at the same time trying to maintain their historical offerings,” he said, which represents a difficult struggle as IT is enabling many of the interactions between those firms and their target audiences. “How do they redefine customer experience? (We think) the role of the CIO will be, ‘How do I do two or three things really well? How do I change the business dynamic with our customers, no matter what channel they go through?’”

These shifts don’t just mean changes for CIOs, but their staff as well, Bayley said. Managing talent is going to become even more complex and demanding. “I think the workforce has to have a strong understanding of the business need, demanding of the workforce that they have a larger depth of business technology than ever before,” he said. “When I think about a lot of the digital and user experience work that we help other companies with, the workforce not only has to be equipped on Agile, the latest technologies, but on changing the customer experience, and an innovative way.”

Expect some organizations to use crowdfunding, talent swaps and other strategies to fill the gaps, Bayley predicted. “The concept of ecosystem and partnership is going to be incredibly important,” he said.

Gearing Up for Growth Using Multi-speed IT’ is a worthwhile read in its entirety. Or, if you’re pressed for time, get the highlights from the infographic below.


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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