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GLH: The Importance of Outside-In IT Leadership

Jun 16, 2015

We’re proud to say that over the past two years, the Apigee Institute has surveyed more than 1,300 executives and decision-makers in large enterprises to identify practices that raise the odds of achieving digital business leadership. But there’s one thing that really puts some punch behind these findings: our interactions with our customers.

We test and quantify the behaviors that we observe among practitioners who drive change and make a real difference in their organizations.

Chris Hewertson,
chief information officer at U.K. global hotel group GLH

So it’s always exciting to see the convergence of patterns we’ve validated and peer recognition of outstanding leadership. Chris Hewertson, chief information officer at U.K. global hotel group GLH, was recently named number two among IDG UK’s “CIO 100.”  There were several important points of convergence I noticed as I read through an interview with Chris in IDG’s CIO magazine.

Chris states, “mobile and social are transforming the hospitality industry.”  One initiative to meet an “increase in guest expectations around self-service” is enhancing the guest experience with “hotel-brand apps that guests can receive either on in-room, hotel-provided tablets or downloaded to their own device, and which allow guests to order room service and make concierge requests.”

The imperative to deliver apps is something we see as shared by most, if not all, CIOs. Across 800 large companies surveyed by the Apigee Institute in 2014, almost all (95%) deployed at least one app of some type (B2E, B2B, or B2C) in the last 12 months (the remainder intended to, but failed).  

Yet many enterprises struggle to build apps on time, on budget, or with the intended business impact. Altogether, nearly half (45%) of respondents failed to meet expectations on at least one of five criteria for app delivery: time, budget, quality, number, or business impact.

One of Chris’ comments epitomizes a cultural dimension of IT leadership that we describe as “outside in.”  When asked “How do you ensure that you have a good understanding of your business and how your customers use your business's products?” he responds: “Employees are encouraged to try our hotels in order to validate the service and experience the technology as a customer” (emphasis added).

Outside-in behaviors represent embracing what is for many enterprise IT organizations a front-line and market competitiveness-critical role in delivering great customer experiences. Although working “outside in” might seem like a simple concept, it can make a profound difference when contrasted with traditional IT practices. Consider the potential differential outcomes from a more traditional enterprise process in which IT considers its responsibility to receive and work to requirements delivered by another internal team versus standing first-hand in the customer’s shoes and working to the standard set by digital disruptors in their industry.

We see this in our data: among those enterprises who are best at delivering apps—those who exceeded expectations on all five measures of performance—almost all (94%) say that “outside in” describes their IT organization. This is more than twice the percentage that said that among companies that failed to exceed any expectations for app delivery.

We’re very excited that Chris will be sharing his experiences at  I ♥ APIs 2015 in San Jose, Calif., on Oct. 12 through Oct. 14. Chris will join a host of Apigee customers and other digital leaders at what promises to be the world’s largest event dedicated to APIs and digital business strategy for developers, IT experts, and business strategists.

We’ve focused here on cultural issues addressed by Chris. Coming up next we’ll turn to technical practices he described that also surface in our data and raise the odds of achieving digital business leadership.

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