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Focus in 2013

Like many of you, this time of year means budgeting. Every year is different, and budgeting for 2013 is no exception – so how do I maximize the return on investment for our shareholders?

What makes 2013 different? For many of us, the global economic climate and political change means uncertainty. In most cases, this leads to cautious optimism and moderate budget increases at best. As I was scouring the IT Leadership Exchange for benchmark data. I found the data to be consistent.

Compounding uncertainty are the four megatrends, social, mobile, cloud and big data. As CIOs have matured their organizations beyond infrastructure, apps and processes, we seek to gain a competitive advantage with data, and the megatrends are changing our data landscape like never before. People like to describe the Big Data effects of volume, velocity and variety and most all of us are feeling the effects today. I was in China and at the Gartner Symposium in Japan, and I can tell you that the megatrends were hot topics there.

As a CIO, I must admit that I struggled in 2012 to make faster and greater progress in these four areas. In conversations with many of my peers, they feel the same way. And, it feels somewhat illusive to us, like nailing a square of Jello to the wall.

I think I’ve figured out my challenge to making progress, and my “ah ha” moment came from talking with my team. Every year we think through how to do more with less. With prior shifts in IT, e.g. minis, mainframes, client/server, ERP, these were the singular megatrends. Today we are in unprecedented territory with four tectonic shifts happening, all at the same time. So, what did I learn … FOCUS.

So, what is the one thing I can suggest to my peers in IT as they enter 2013? Try not to be all things to all people. Focus on the one megatrend you believe will provide the greatest value to your stakeholders and invest heavily here. You may want to put some small side bets in the others for incubation, but don’t lose focus.

Here’s what I perceive to be the risk. If you have a large team, you have the tendency to believe you can make material progress on all four megatrends concurrently. This is more of the holding company approach, like GE. If you opt for this approach, I wish you all the luck as there are very few reference models where this strategy has been successful.

I’d like your feedback to see how you are planning on approaching the megatrends in 2013.

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