Author Archives: Michael Goul

About Michael Goul

Michael Goul is professor and chair of the department of information systems at Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business, wpcarey.asu.edu.

IT Leaders Are Taking On A New Role As Companies Gear Up For Recovery

Who should CEOs increasingly turn to when they need to formulate modern business strategies that can generate new service revenues, cut across organizational boundaries, reduce costs, enhance productivity — and reach out to customers anywhere in order to deliver anything?

There’s a strategy Dream Team that likely exists right under CEOs’ noses. It’s a team primed to deal with what is being frequently called the emerging “freedom economy.”

Leaders in the areas of services marketing, IT and supply chain management comprise this new Dream Team, although they’re all often so busy they don’t have much time to have a meeting of the minds. But it is high time for CEOs to empower this team and engage their talents as new strategies are being formulated.

It’s pretty obvious to most product-oriented companies that services are an increasingly important revenue stream, so their services marketing leaders have to be front and center with their customer-centric focus. And it’s commonsense that agile and cost-effective supply chain leadership is a key to profitability, so new deployment and delivery issues related to goods and services should be placed in their trustworthy hands. But putting an IT leader on the dream team? Why now?

IT has been going through some major changes lately. IT leaders’ pain points already have generated calloused understandings of what it takes to deliver service (both internally and externally), leverage interorganizational relationships (some of them off-shore), reduce costs, improve the organization’s productivity and get information to where it needs to be to support company agents and customers before, during and after a product sale or a service encounter.

What most people don’t know is that the very systems and applications IT leaders are managing are undergoing significant change. Computing cycles are becoming virtualized, which means raw computation horsepower is now being outsourced. Even data is being managed and massaged in outsourced clouds. And the software itself is becoming service-oriented, meaning that applications are becoming compositions of interleaved executions — some internal to the organization and some running externally that are being out-tasked at the blink of an eye.

The new cell phone mantra — “I’ve got an app for that” — has become a rallying cry for what internal and external customers of IT capabilities expect today, and IT leaders are rapidly learning to respond. IT leaders are accustomed to managing relationships where the choice to switch, engage, disengage and negotiate are time dependent and customer-driven; i.e., they understand the emerging freedom economy.

The environment for IT leaders has changed so much that many now describe their role as serving as a “conductor.” This conjures images of a person standing on a podium waving a baton to orchestrate an ensemble of various instruments to deliver a classical masterpiece. It’s similar, but for the IT leader, the instrumentation has different levels of granularity. For example, an entire division’s IT operations might be outsourced or just one code component might be out-tasked. The conductor’s baton must be able to address broad and sweeping changes and relationships — and still be able to focus on even the smallest atom of syncopated execution. With this complexity, the IT leader role has emerged as one where partnerships are in a constant state of flux, governance processes must be correspondingly agile, and high levels of service must be maintained.

Calling on a Dream Team of leaders from services marketing, supply chain management and IT may not be all that new to many organizations that have been figuring out ways to cut costs to deal with today’s economy. But calling on the same team to help a company emerge successfully in the new market climate characterized by the freedom economy will be a long term make-or-break fact of organizational life.

Consider that latest app you just downloaded to your iPhone or Droid; you’re defining its context for value based on when you want it and where you are using it. You expect an excellent service encounter that will put a smile on your face when your app does its thing, and you expect the freedom to deal with a provider that in reality may be a complex chain of organizational collaborations. And another thing; You expect the execution of that app to be conducted in such a manner that the response is instantaneous, while the intricacies are hidden so you can delight in what the service does for you right now.

Underneath the marketing and chain management that is required to bring you that delight, there’s an IT conductor who has orchestrated the capability to jam out the behind-the-scenes core. That leader is sort of like the unsung hero of the Dream Team, but it’s an essential role that must be revered in order to engage in the harsh realities of the freedom economy.


Arizona Business Magazine

February 2010