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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Essential Reading for IT Leaders: Part Two

Following up on part one in our series on essential reading for IT leaders (that is, CIOs, CTOs, IT Directors, etc.), today we offer you 10 more titles to complement your existing technical chops. The theme of this group of titles is largely the same as before: IT leaders need to move beyond being strictly technologists, and develop a much deeper, more intuitive and more strategic focus on the strategy of the business. And while other people are asking Do you see CIOs becoming extinct? we argue that a CIO or CTO or IT Director who understands technology and strategy, and who can "bridge the gap" between the world of "the business" and the technology world, will always be an incredibly valuable asset and will have a role in any modern organization.

Here then, are 10 more titles to add to your reading list:

  1. The Future of Competition: Co-Creating Unique Value With Customers by C. K. Prahalad and Venkat Ramaswamy - If anyone can challenge Michael Porter's status as "the King of modern business strategy" then it's probably C.K. Prahalad. Prahalad is one of the greatest business thinkers to have ever lived, and this book was a masterpiece by a master. In The Future of Competition the authors develop the idea of co-creation which is a model of interaction with customers in which the customer is cast as an equal partner, rather than merely a passive recipient. The key idea is that maximum value is created by a mutual development process in which the firm and the customer work together to create personalized, unique solutions. In a world where even the most technologically sophisticated products are at risk of being commoditized, co-creation stands out as a way to step around that risk, deliver maximum value, and maintain deep customer engagement.
  2. The Innovator's Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business by Clayton M. Christensen - A landmark book, The Innovator's Dilemma explores the reasons why firms innovate, but fail to gain a return on those innovations. The key idea here is that fear of cannibalizing an existing, legacy, business prevents firms for investing in, and promoting, innovative products, even while their competitors are moving past them. Understanding the ideas here is essential for executive leadership in any company which depends on continuous innovation for growth.
  3. The Innovator's Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth by Clayton M. Christensen and Michael E. Raynor - The followup to The Innovators Dilemma this title explores how firms can become producers of disruptive innovations, and adopt strategies to achieve disruptive growth through successful innovation.
  4. Outside Innovation: How Your Customers Will Co-Design Your Company's Future by Patricial Seybold - Outside Innovation is an excellent and in-depth analysis of how to work together with customers to develop innovative offerings. The ideas presented in this book overlap to some extent with those of The Future of Competition and the two titles complement each other well. Seybold's book is more "hands on", so to speak, with plenty of real world examples of what she calls "outside innovation", where the work by Prahalad and Ramaswamy is a little more academic.
  5. Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers by Geoffrey Moore - This may be the most famous marketing book ever, at least in high-tech circles, and rightly so. Moore illustrates how the Technology Adoption Lifecycle is not a continuous curve, as it had generally been presented in the past. His analysis of the gap or "chasm" between segments of the curve represents an insight that changed high-tech marketing forever. If your firm has to deal with the challenge of introducing new, technologically innovative products to the market, you owe it to yourself to read Crossing The Chasm and put Moore's ideas into practice.
  6. Seeing What's Next: Using Theories of Innovation to Predict Industry Change by Clayton M. Christensen, Erik A. Roth and Scott D. Anthony - a followup to The Innovator's Dilemma and The Innovator's Solution, this title deals with predicting change within industries. Here Christensen and his colleagues provide a model for how to spot the signals of impending industry change, anticipate the outcomes of competitive engagements, and asses how a firm's strategy will affect it's future success (or lack thereof).
  7. The Balanced Scorecard: Translating Strategy into Action by Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton - Here, Norton and Kaplan lay out the fundamental ideas of the Balanced Scorecard which has become one of the most widely adopted performance management frameworks in business, and has evolved into a strategy execution process. The value of the Balanced Scorecard approach is its ability to help firms articulate their strategy in actionable terms, and to generate a concrete roadmap to implementing that strategy.
  8. The Strategy-Focused Organization: How Balanced Scorecard Companies Thrive in the New Business Environment by Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton - The successor to The Balanced Scorecard this is a further exploration of the ideas of Kaplan and Norton. Here they lay out five specific steps which are required to truly align strategy with operational implementation: 1) translate the strategy into operational terms, 2) align the organization to the strategy, 3) make strategy everyone's everyday job, 4) make strategy a continual process, and 5) mobilize change through strong, effective leadership.
  9. Strategy Maps: Converting Intangible Assets into Tangible Outcomes by Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton - Strategy Maps continues to dive deeper into the mechanisms of creating real alignment between a firms strategy and it's people, processes, systems and and information technology. Here the authors present powerful new tool - the Strategy Map - for documenting and managing the strategic intent of the firm, and mapping that strategy to tactical objectives.
  10. The Execution Premium: Linking Strategy to Operations for Competitive Advantage by Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton - Our final Kaplan & Norton recommendation of the day, The Execution Premium provides firms with the know-how needed to generate an effective strategy, plan the tactical implementation and execution of the strategy, and - perhaps most importantly - test and refine the strategy.

And there you have it... 10 title that IT leaders should familiarize themselves with, in order to be better equipped to analyze technological decisions, and evaluate technological capabilities, in terms of the strategies they support or enable. Armed with this kind of knowledge, IT leaders can prepare to move away from being thought of as specialists in only technology, and begin to become recognized and valued business strategists in their own right.