Forget tech strategy: Business strategy is what matters

Technology strategies are often useless because they're not expressions of a business strategy

You bought a new smartphone and picked up a tablet -- now what? Lots of people are talking about what is the next big thing. It isn't just in mobile, either. People are asking the same question about big data, cloud, and networking. Notions abound everywhere you look on what's next and where everything is going. But all you're trying to do is figure out your next purchase and how to make your life a little easier at work.

The issue with trying to figure out what's next is that few organizations actually know where they are or where they're going with technology. They keep chasing buzzwords and building strategies around them. Chances are you can open up a Computerworld or CIO magazine, and you will see all sorts of stories about creating a mobile strategy, a cloud strategy, networking/SDN strategy (yes, software-defined networking is the "next big thing" in networking), and most certainly a big data strategy. Heck, I participated in a conversation this week where the first question asked was what sort of analytics should you be running against your big data.

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Having all these strategies is very nice, but to be truthful, they're completely worthless. You don't need any of them. What you need is a business strategy. You then fit all these technology pieces into your business strategy.

Your business strategy should be about how you create value for the company. It may be acquiring new customers; it may be selling more to your current customers or reaching them faster. You may have one overarching business strategy, then more specific ones for different business units because they do different things.

It all comes down to creating value. Technology is just a way for you to achieve or increase that value faster. Different technologies fit in different ways. If you want to build technology strategies, that's fine -- but build them so that they fit the business strategy.

For example, if you take a look at mobile, you have to figure out the best way to bring that business value out. It's not a question of what's next for BYOD (bring your own device) or COPE (corporate owned, personally enabled). Although many people don't like to admit it, those issues are focused around ownership. They don't address how to get value from mobile technology.

We've spent the last 14 years dealing with putting email, calendar, and contacts on devices. It started with the BlackBerry and eventually mushroomed with the iPhone, then Android. As we move forward, such email, calendar, and contacts access isn't even table stakes anymore. The value of people being able to respond to email anytime, anywhere is easy to figure out.

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