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Thornton May Leads IASA on Tour of Technology's Future.

Byline: Michael P. Voelker

Every week, Thornton May talks to executives across industries about what they are doing in IT and what's motivating them to do it. The surprising insights gained from this empirical research provide the backdrop for his keynote presentation at IASA's Technology Super Session, "Managing Technology Futures."

"I hypothesize that deep in the back of the minds of many boards of directors in the insurance industry, there lurks a nagging belief that they are not getting full value from investments in information technology -- a feeling of doubt that is very consistent with the experience of other vertical markets," says May.

May is a futurist and executive director and dean of the IT Leadership Academy in Jacksonville, Fla. His experience researching and consulting on the role and behaviors of C-level executives in creating value with information technology has won him an unquestioned place on the short list of serious thinkers on this topic. A gifted storyteller, May combines a lively style with detailed research to create an experience for session attendees that is both informative and entertaining.

Named one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in IT, May has established a reputation for innovation in time-compressed, collaborative problem-solving. His insights have appeared in dozens of journals, newspapers, and other media. He is also the author of The New Know: Innovation Powered by Analytics.

Greater Value from Technology

Organizations that are adept at gaining greater value from future technology share three skill sets: future awareness, future preference, and future preparation. In building future awareness, organizations should not treat the word future as a noun -- a place or a thing --but rather as a verb, a mode of behavior.

"Organizations have to be viscerally aware that next will be fundamentally different from now," May says.

According to May, best practices in future awareness include time-stamping all key enterprise processes and technologies. This entails timing how long a given process takes, branding various pieces of the technology with a sunset date, and estimating the costs of replacement or termination. Companies should also undertake an annual exercise to "exfoliate" portions of the existing technology portfolio that have outlived their usefulness.

"Organizations spend all their time and attention at the front end of the technology digestion process and little or no time and effort at the back end, which is a mistake," May explains.

Future preference deals with organizations' ability to shape the kind of future they want to experience. "Organizations successful at 'futuring' have a point of view on how they want the future to be different," says May. "However, only 40 percent of the Global 2000 have an IT Road Map -- a pictorial description of where IT is going."

In building future preparedness and realizing full value from investments in technology, organizations need to recognize that the future will be different and use that recognition to paint a picture of what that future looks like.

"The picture of what the future looks like must be deconstructed into the skills sets required to prosper," says May. Those skills must then be taught or acquired in order for organizations to be prepared for what the future entails.

Fostering Future Success

Over 80 percent of Global 2000 companies do not consider technology forecasting, technology strategy, or IT budgeting a core competency. May believes the reason for this is that at many organizations, executives have little or no real idea how IT is spending money today. Additionally, the reason many companies fail at future planning -- and the reason so many technology forecasts are inaccurate -- is that prognosticators assume the future will simply be an addition or subtraction from the present.

"The thinking of 'this year plus 10 percent' still drives most IT planning," May says.

To be successful in technology forecasting, budgeting and strategy, insurers will need to master five "Next Gen Technology Leadership Knowledge Sets" and be able to answer four "Must Know IT New Knows." All of those were detailed in Monday's Super Session and promise to change the way attendees think about the future of technology.

"The starting point for differentiated future-making competence is psychological," May explains. "Organizations who are best able to plan about the future of technology think about the future differently than ones who don't."
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Publication:Property and Casualty 360
Date:Jun 3, 2013
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