By Ajay Damani, SVP Product Development, PROS Holdings Inc.
Evolution of IT Services Landscape
Over the last decade, the IT services landscape has evolved from an application and infrastructure services mindset for example helpdesk, IT management and staff augmentation to services that follow the technology wave, including big data, analytic, mobility and cloud. Companies are trying to find efficiencies and differentiation in what they do and have been investing in IT services as an extension to their teams. In the last two years, big data, analytics, mobility and cloud have been some of the most influential and growing areas in IT services. There's a lot of dialogue about big data and the cloud, and we expect these two themes will continue to be prevalent over the next five years.
Align IT Services with Business Strategy
From a software technology perspective, the skills and applicability of technology to a problem statement pose persistent challenges. As companies ride the technology wave, some technologies are sticky, while others are not. Hadoop, an open-source framework for distributed processing of data on clusters of commodity hardware, was hot around 2013 and interest jumped in Asia. Companies wanted to find ways to integrate it into their stack and started experimenting with the technology. They hired IT services companies to fill the skill void. However, the missing piece was connecting technology to a business goal that drives value. Without this connection, a lot of Hadoop implementations became technology experiments.
Companies have to connect their IT strategy to their business strategy. And IT services companies have to help companies connect technology and business objectives.
Companies will be more successful if they transform from an IT service management (cost-based) model to IT solutions model where the game is different and the outcomes are more valuable and ROI-focused.
Changing Role of CIOs in the Age of Smart Applications
The CIO role is even more important today. CIOs have to adapt to technology waves and connect these waves to their companies' business goals to continue to stay relevant. Data is king. Big data is here to stay, and with the Internet of Things, data will play an even bigger role in the future. At PROS, we believe that smart applications are the wave of the future: these data-driven smart apps combine automation, analytic and data science drive value and growth by looking at a company's own data and surfacing actionable insights is key. Sports teams are using data to determine player fit, and we've seen success across the industries we serve, including manufacturing, distribution, services and travel. Similarly, companies have to develop and use their data much like a business GPS to help them navigate through complex business decisions.
Disruptive Ideas to Rule the Roost
Entrepreneurs are visionaries and want their ideas to be successful. They have become disruptors in various industries and have created incredible innovation. Both Uber and Tesla are great examples. However, for most entrepreneurs, knowing early that an idea has merit or it's time to pivot has been a key challenge. My advice to entrepreneurs is use empirical evidence to quickly prove that their ideas actually solve real problems and a product/market fit truly exists. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries covers these concepts effectively.
Secondly, entrepreneurs have to think about the user. User experience, simplicity and reducing the learning time for applications have to be at the forefront. Think about the simplicity of Uber. They disrupted the taxi industry, proved the product fit exists and found ways to grow the business rapidly with low costs. From the end users' perspective, the ease of finding a ride on-demand, picking the car type and simplifying the payment process made it very successful. They made it look very easy for the customer!
Customer Success to Drive Innovation
Every company should be innovating, and thinking about how to grow the business and drive further value. Don't accept status quo. If companies aren't innovating, eventually someone will disrupt their business model. We've seen this movie played out many times with various companies. At PROS, innovation is one of our core values, and we continue to push the boundaries and create possibilities for our customers. Our approach is founded on a model of customer success. We work with our customers to understand their challenges. We look for innovative ways to simplify their user experience, make them successful and drive significant value. Each time we hear customers talk about how we've helped them, that's the fuel that keeps us wanting to do more.
Every team member has the autonomy to innovate, and innovation happens within every department. Recently, our Professional Services teams built tools to reduce implementation times. It was a grassroots innovation and became a business objective.
People, Product and Productiveness
My advice is to not be the jack-of-all-trades. Be good at something very specific that brings focus to what you do and drives value for your customers. Find and innovate on your core,differentiate yourself from the "me too" providers, and focus on quality, not quantity of people.
Focus on development programs for your people, helping them feel the purpose of building something special. When people feel this way they are inspired and get extremely productive, and the likelihood of attrition significantly reduces. Then continue to develop them and show them the value they provide your organization.