Smith, H. A., and J. D. McKeen. “Consumerization of Technologyat IFG.” #1-L11-1-002, Queen’s School

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Smith, H. A., and J. D. McKeen. “Consumerization of Technologyat IFG.” #1-L11-1-002, Queen’s School of Business, December 2009.Reproduced by permission of Queen’s University, School of Business,Kingston, Ontario. “There’s good news and bad news,” Josh Novak reported to theassembled IT management team at their monthly status meeting. “Thegood news is that our social media traffic is up 3000% in the pasttwo years. Our new interactive website, Facebook presence, and ourU-Tube and couponing promotions have been highly successful indriving awareness of our ‘Nature’s Glow’ brand and are very popularwith our target demographic—the under-30s. Unfortunately, the badnews is that our competitors at GPL are eating our lunch with thenew mobile apps they’ve developed.” Everyone frowned at the mention of Grocers’ Products Limited,their fiercest competitor, which had the largest chain ofintegrated food and retail stores in the country and whose PremierChoice products were showcased on their shelves, making itincreasingly harder for IFG to get prime space for their topbrands. “Our web and social media presence has helped us to begin todevelop a relationship with our customers,” Josh continued, “butour Marketing folks are very worried that we’re going to be fallingbehind, isn’t that so Tonya?” Tonya James, manager of IT Marketing, nodded her head. As the ITperson working directly with marketing, it had been under her watchthat IFG had transformed its dowdy online presence into somethingthat was hip and trendy. Together, she and Josh, now manager of ITInnovation, had begun experimenting with new media, creating aninnovation process that took a large number of new technologies andideas for products and services and created a protected “sand box”that enabled trial implementations for employees only. Feedback andexperience at this level then helped Josh and his businesscolleagues select the best ones for development in full“heavy-duty” production mode for the public, complete with privacyand security protection and following all architectural standards.Only then would the chief technology officer, Rick Visser, who wascharged with protecting company data and systems, allow newtechnologies to be fully integrated into IFG’s internal technicalenvironment. Mark Szabo, the newly appointed head of IFG’s BusinessIntelligence (BI) team reported next. “As you all know, ourexecutives are all screaming for more and more information to helpthem but it’s not going to be easy. What we have here at IFG is adata mess and it’s only going to get worse from what I can see.”The picture wasn’t pretty he warned. IFG had thousands oftraditional systems all of which produced data and reports. Theproblem was that each used somewhat different definitions ofimportant company concepts, like “in stock.” “If our goal is to improve the stocks of our products on theshelves, we’ll have to go back to rewrite many of these systems.Some of them believe that a product is ‘in stock’ when it’s on theshelves; others when it’s in our back room waiting to be put on theshelves; still others when we have received the order from thesupplier or when it’s arrived at our regional distributioncenters.” He went on to describe similar problems with varyingunderstandings of such core company data as “customer,” “supplier,”“employee,” and others. “It’s hard to tell our executives how‘sales’ are going when we don’t have a single definition of what‘sales’ are!” he said with frustration. “Right now, I’ve got twopeople working full time on spreadsheets trying to reconcile datato answer the questions we continually get from the 37th floor,” heconcluded referring to the executive suite. “We can’t tell them wedon’t have the information but we need a better way to get it,that’s for sure.” The meeting droned on with the CIO, John Ahern, calling on allhis managers one at a time. As far as most of them were concerned,it was “business as usual” in IT. Josh didn’t say anything else inthe meeting but he cornered Mark as it broke up. “Have you got timefor a coffee? I think we need to talk.” “Sure, what’s up?,” Mark asked as they headed toward the companycafeteria. “I liked what you had to say in the meeting about BI,” saidJosh. “You seem to be one of the few managers here who understandsthat what we do in IT is going to have to change dramatically overthe next few years. And that a lot of our work is going to focus oninformation—getting it; analyzing it; and delivering it in packagesthat people can use for their work. I believe that there’s a datatsunami rapidly heading our way and we haven’t got a clue how todeal with it.” Mark grimaced as he filled his cup with what the cafeteriacalled “coffee.” “I know, I know,” he agreed. “I’ve only been in BIa couple of months but all those articles and books out there aboutcompeting on analytics and analyzing unstructured data, like emailsand tweets and blogs, are making my head spin. If we can’t agree onwhat a ‘customer’ is, how are we
ever going to manage therest?” Josh made a sympathetic face. “You’ve got that right, but I’mafraid it’s even worse than you think.” Over the next thirtyminutes he described what he was seeing out in the field as helooked for innovative new technologies and applications that couldhelp IFG. “You think we have problems with our existing systems, but thereare guys out there in our business units buying full-scaleapplications from the cloud with company credit cards!” He went onto tell Mark about the pressure he was getting from the sales guysto buy everyone iPads so they could write up orders on the road.“We’ve already been forced by our C-team to buy them and the boardiPads and so far, we’ve kept them locked down tightly, but that’sgoing to change very soon.” Users were also creating local “data marts,” which includedcopies of core company data as well as external data feeds, andthen building complex spreadsheets with information derived fromthese. “Our business units don’t use the centralized company reportsanymore,” he stated. “They create their own. We’ve got the ‘wildwest’ out there!” Mark looked shocked. “What about our company data warehouse?Isn’t that what they’re supposed to use?” He had spent a few yearsbuilding the warehouse a while back and the team had put a lot ofthought into making it the best they could. Josh was aware of this but ploughed on. He and Mark needed to beon the same page about this if these issues were ever going to beresolved. “The world has changed,” he said gently. “Our businessguys are online all the time now; software vendors are targetingthem directly and because of the low costs involved they can affordto make an end run around IT; there are literally thousands of freedata sets out there; and computing power and storage cost aren’t anissue any more with the cloud. Our data warehouse is seen as adinosaur. It’s inflexible because we insist on reviewing all thedata that goes in there for quality and provenance and it takesforever (i.e., 30 seconds) to get a response.” Mark looked down at the table and sighed. “So what you’re sayingis that all my work in BI is too little, too late?” Josh thought for a moment before replying. “That’s not exactlywhat I’ve been saying, Mark. What I meant to point out is that wein IT are caught in the middle between two opposing trends. Thefirst is the trend to analytics and business intelligence thatyou’re working on. That’s important. The execs want to get at moreinformation to run the company and it has to be based on good,trustworthy data. There are whole businesses out there that arewinning because they’ve found a way to do this. But the
other, opposite trend is what I’m seeing. Andit’s important too. Everyone working in our business is also aconsumer of technology and when the devices and applications theycan use in their personal lives are more powerful and flexible thanthose in their business lives, they naturally want to work aroundthe clunky technology we provide them with and use their own. And,since we’re now trying to build relationships with our customers,we are going to have to start thinking and working like theydo.” “In some ways, this is just like the ‘old days’ in IT,” Marksmiled. “I’m a lot older than you and I remember when thosenew-fangled PCs came in and everyone in IT was worrying about howwe were going to handle people working on their own computers athome. And then when the web first hit business, we had peoplerunning around saying ‘the sky is falling’ and developing their ownpersonal and localized websites. We don’t handle new stuff wellaround here, do we?” Josh grinned. He was notoriously frustrated with the IT “powersthat be” that always wanted to lock everything down and wrap it inlayers of privacy and security before allowing it out there. “Well,let’s just say that we’ve got some way to go before I believe wecan be as innovative as I’d like us to be. We’ve got to be aware ofthese trends and how they’re going to hit us. Or our business modelcould change and we’ll be out in the cold. Where are all the bookstores, video stores and music stores these days? What happened tothose companies?” “You’re right of course,” said Mark “but we have to get morepeople involved in figuring out what we need to do here. This is aHUGE issue and we can’t ‘boil the ocean’! Somehow we need to getour arms around the most important things to do so we can make somesort of progress. Otherwise, we’re spinning our wheels and thesituation’s just going to grow more and more out of control.” “I’ll tell you what,” said Josh. “Let me speak with Tonya. She’sterrific at stick-handling these situations. I’ll get back to youwith a plan.” And with that, they began to talk about the upcomingcompany softball game as they cleared the table and headed back totheir respective cubicles. Josh laid the situation out for Tonya at the first opportunityhe could find in her busy schedule. “So you see,” he concluded. “Weneed the discipline and rigor of BI and all of the good things wein IT can do for our executives and employees if we get them betterand more trustworthy information. But we also need to keep movingahead in the mobile and social space for consumers without puttinghandcuffs on us. And we need to recognize that the business is likely already doing their ownthing on the cloud without IT and using their own personal devices,because it’s so cheap and easy to do and we don’t help them! If wedon’t somehow figure out how all this stuff fitstogether—especially the data—we’ll never be able to use what weknow either operationally or strategically.” “You’ve done a good job articulating the challenges we’refacing,” Tonya said. “I know that the Marketing people are puttinglots of pressure on me to help them with better information andtools. In my experience, when business is in turmoil they wanteverything right away and they’ll do whatever it takes to get it
now. What would you say our biggest need is rightnow?” Josh fiddled with his pen for a moment. He had hoped Tonya wouldtell
him. “Well . . .,” he said slowly. “We need to beseen to be doing
morein this space. It’s okay to work onthe big systems and core data. In fact, that’s our main job. But wealso need to help the business help itself. With my tiny innovationteam, I can’t possibly deal with all of the ideas and technologiesthat are out there. And the business guys are seeing many moreopportunities than I can deal with. It’s really hard to tell what’sgoing to work and what isn’t until they play with things. I canprovide some of this in my ‘innovation sandbox’ but I don’t thinkthat’s going to be enough. And . . .,” he said as another ideapopped into his head, “we don’t have the right people to do some ofthis work. We need information analysts, mobile developers,visualization specialists and lots of business people to work withus and teach us about the business. I don’t have all the answershere but we can’t stick our heads in the sand and let the worldchange around us. Are we going to be reactionary or visionary?” Tonya smiled. “There’s never a dull moment around here is there?You’ve got an important point of view here but I think Rick Visserdoes too. Just in IT alone, we’ve got a number of groups that needto have some input on this, in addition to my area. We have to getahead of this ‘tsunami’ of yours and be proactive in a way we’venever been before. This doesn’t mean that we throw all our triedand true practices out the window but it also means that we shoulddo
some things differently around here and that means Johnhas to be involved. We need a plan to manage all these new trendsand he’s in the best position to help us because there are going tobe a lot of cultural, organizational and structural changesinvolved, not just for IT but for the whole business. But we can’tdump this in his lap. We need to do our homework first. I’ll talkwith him and tell him what we’re doing and try to identify thestakeholders involved. Can you come up with some key issues andpreliminary recommendations about what you think we should be doingand how we should do it? Sit down with Mark and get his ideas too.Then we’ll see if we can get everyone in a room together to ‘talkturkey’ and hammer out a more proactive IT strategy for handlingthis mess.” Discussion Questions Describe the problem at IFG as succinctly as you can. Use thisdescription to identify the main stakeholders.(can you write thistopic in different paragraph) IFG can’t afford the resources toidentify, define, cleanse, and validate all of its data. On theother hand, building yet another data mart to address a specificproblem worsens the data situation. Propose a solution that willenable IFG to leverage a key business problem/opportunity usingtheir BI tools that does not aggravate their existing datapredicament. Attached

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