The Internet of Everything has recently joined Big Data Analytics, Social and Mobile technologies and the Cloud as subjects that one can bring up in a general business or social situation and be reasonably sure people will know what it is or quickly understand it. What is also becoming generally understood is that these elements are connected. We call them I-SMAC. They feed on each other and the combinations are creating new businesses and “disrupting” old ones.
That there is a new opportunity, or, if you’re of a different mind-set, a new threat, raises the question among business leaders, “where are we and what should we be doing?” There’s a framework that dates back to the days before “Enterprise IT” was called Enterprise IT that can help. First laid out in a Harvard Business Review article in the mid-70’s, the “Stages Theory” proposes four “growth processes” that managers can use to track the evolution of IT in support of business.
On the “Demand Side” are included the Using Community, their use, participation and understanding of technology, and the “Applications Portfolio”, now including both applications and services, that make up the functional, now including process and analytic capabilities that an organization (or market) does or could use.
On the “Supply Side” are the Resources brought to bear: technologies, personnel inside and, now, outside the organization, and other elements like facilities and supplies, along with Management Practices which range from strategy and governance through development and support to daily operation and break/fix.
On a cross-industry basis the Applications Portfolio for I-SMAC is still in an early stage. In some companies and industries, like retail bookselling or personal photography, it has passed the early experimentation stage and a full ramp up in capability is underway. In no case are these portfolios “mature” Stage IV portfolios. Over recent months we have seen a subtle but clear shift in the awareness of I-SMAC opportunities. Still, the Using community tends to be either unaware or artificially enthusiastic or doubtful and combative. This is consistent with the early stage nature of the portfolios. Lots of promise but not yet enough history to show unquestioned benefit.
For the most parts the Resources being brought to bear are new and rapidly changing. There is a very short half-life of the preferred vendor or technology for a given task, or there is not yet an implicit and emerging standard, in most cases. The staff, in-house or in service providers, are skilled in what they are working on but, as the technologies around them are kaleidoscopically changing, are having to spend large amounts of time keeping up. Management Practices are currently updates-with-Band-Aids of what went before. The best way to build I-SMAC systems and to manage them at scale is not yet proven.
What should you do in your case? First, set a baseline that reflects your industry or market overall and shows the position of your company. However detailed and analytic you wish or need to make it, the baseline should cover the state of each of the Growth Processes. You will typically find that they are at a similar stage, but not identical. Spend more think time if one growth process is Stage III and one Stage I. Such mis-matches are trouble. Do a compare-and-contrast analysis between your status and an industry synopsis. Make decisions about whether you are ahead or behind and what you should do about it.
Second, with a “light touch,” explore the I-SMAC efforts underway within your company today. This basic inventory, by the way, is a Stage II practice. You are building organizational awareness of how you are trying to take advantage of, or face down a threat from I-SMAC. You need to know what these efforts are, but as they are almost certainly early-Stage efforts you need to avoid the urge to pull the plug because you can’t yet see the mature market value. Make sure you’re in the game. If you are not at least trying to make use of some combination of Internet of Everything generated Data via Mobile platforms, leveraging Social technology via the Cloud you are exposed to competitors and new entrants who will.
July 15, 2013