Square, Pinterest, Twitter – Is Your IT up for the Revolution?

The success of Square, the rise of Twitter, the adoption of Facebook and the enterprise software revolution that accompanies it – all emanate from the evolution of what we need technology to deliver – it’s no longer the packaging of repeatable processes automated to save pennies on the dollar but the desire to increase the top line.

(Source: New York City Yellow Cabs to Get iPads and Square)


In an economy that’s growing slowly businesses of all sizes are looking to leverage the modern tools at their disposal to grow their businesses. You could say that the social imperative is the growth imperative – social, mobile and cloud are the transformational technologies that enable companies to re-think growth.
In an insightful article, Michael Krigsman of ZDNet entitled “Research: The Devaluing Role of IT in a Marketing World“points to a problem and an opportunity – “If you are a CIO, you can take several steps to prevent your IT organization from becoming marginalized.”

Let’s look at some key ideas that make up this trend – through the lens of success of some startups.The Square Imperative

Let’s look at what Square has done and what it means for you as CIO (and CMO).

  • Mobile first: Square delivered a mission critical application – payments – to small businesses from cab drivers to laundry shops. The app is really easy to use and has scaled with explosive growth.
  • Cloud first: Square delivers innovation not just to SMBs where it started but can scale to meet the needs of Starbucks. Neither your neighborhood coffee shop nor Starbucks need to install any software to use Square.
 Now imagine yourself as CIO of a competing retail organization. Why do your customers have to use 1980s era terminals to check out groceries? Why do your customers have to carry plastic loyalty cards? Why can I not find the ingredients of that medicine or pasta sauce by simply scanning the bar code? Is your CEO going to be happy to know that it will take 3 years and tens of millions of dollar to deliver a sub par experience to the consumers?
The Pinterest Imperative

Let’s look at what Pinterest demands of you as a CIO & CMO.
  • Social first: Pinterest allows me to use my Facebook identity. It allows me to share. Why is it so difficult to perform these tasks on your online store? Why can your online store not look and feel like a Pinterest? Why can you not create a gift wish list and share it with your friends and family?
  • Mobile first: Pinterest is not just mobile first but ‘iPad first’ – iPad and the table the form factor is emerging as the device of choice for browsing and discovery. Its no longer sufficient for you to think about having a mobile version of your app. You must think about using multiple devices together to help consumers achieve their goals. For example, you may check the stock price on iPhone or receive an alert, then use iPad to track multiple stocks and finally execute the trade via your iPhone or Desktop. We are living in multi-device world.
  • Cloud first: This goes without saying but just in case you are thinking you can have Pinterest like growth in your wildly successful scenario, is your data center really ready to handle 10s of millions of users overnight? Apps like Pinterest demand a cloud platform.
$100M or more in IT Spend and my cabbie has better IT?
If you are the CEO, you have to wonder why after spending 100s of millions, sometimes billions – you still have customer facing apps that look like they came out of the 90s?
  • Why has all this investment in private cloud not resulted in faster innovation even if it has cut down the cost?
  • Why does the cab driver have the ability to accept payments anywhere on a mobile device and your customers and employees don’t?
  • Why does the cab driver have the ability to allow his customer to “self check out” and you still can’t? Or have to spend 100s of millions to get there?
  • Why does the cab driver have the ability to e-sign and then email the receipt? And you are spending 100 dollars in shipping and paperwork costs to sign 300 dollar contracts? Why can’t your customers get a paperless experience?

There is a way out and there are companies that are embracing the future. Vinnie highlights many of these successes in his blog posts like this and his books.

In my view, CIOs must consider what kind of partners they are engaged with from software companies to systems integrators who can deliver this next generation of apps.

Given that its the month of Dreamforce, an exciting time for us at Salesforce – allow me to extend an invitation. Are you working with the most innovative companies like Salesforce? Next week at Dreamforce, you can come see the innovations and how customers like General Electric, Burberry, Virgin are leveraging them to deliver innovation and growth.)

(Cross-posted @ AnshuBlog)

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Partner, Storm Ventures. Previously VP of product management & strategy at salesforce.com across applications and platform. Previously founded and led Oracle SaaS Platform, and held engineering and product management roles in SOA and Identity Management. Anshu has a B. Tech. (Honors) and M.S. in Computer Science from Indian Institute of Technology at Kharagpur and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill respectively. Read his blog here.

One response to “Square, Pinterest, Twitter – Is Your IT up for the Revolution?”

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