The theme of organizational and operational re-invention is an increasingly recurring theme among providers of the entire “SMAC stack” of Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud services. IBM’s Connect 2014 event in Orlando made it clear that IBM firmly believes in the concept and benefits of business re-invention as a result of the adoption and sue of Social IT.

But any provider emphasizing change and re-invention is less likely to find a willing and welcoming audience if and when the concepts of “change” and “re-invention” are the leads in the sales pitch.

We believe that IBM and its competitors have the right idea, but that the wrong articulation and emphasis regarding the idea of business change and re-invention. Re-invention certainly occurs in the course of IT adoption and use – but it typically occurs as a matter of time and experience with new technologies, not prior to adopting and using them.

More importantly, “re-invention” is much more likely to be perceived by buyers and users as a threat to enterprise business.

First, organizations rarely prefer, want, or like, to re-invent themselves. It takes compelling business needs to even consider re-invention of an organizational nature, let alone considering it in order to benefit from a set of technologies. Re-invention is expensive; it takes away from what the organization can accomplish now, in an era of constant pressure and management strategy to do more with less, and to do it faster and better.

Re-invention is also disruptive to any business organization or operation. Suggesting or stating that re-invention of the methods, operations, or organization must occur before experiencing the benefits from any technology is suggesting that the organization must disrupt its business, on purpose, in order to utilize that technology.

Second, business IT tends to get adopted most quickly and used most widely when it fits into the way(s) that an organization does, or wants to do, business. Firms have not re-invented themselves or their work processes first in order to benefit from the use of mobile telephony, email, web commerce, desktop PCs, SaaS, and so on. It’s obvious that how, where, why and when organizations do business has changed as a result of the adoption and use of all of these technologies. But the vast majority of those organizations did not plan ahead to change what they do and how they do it prior to adopting and using the technologies. Business change tends to come from adoption, use, and integration that enable improvement.

Finally, providers of Social IT face more of an uphill battle than they might perceive. Saugatuck’s 2013 global Cloud adoption and use survey indicates that Social IT ranks well behind Mobility and Analytics in terms of relative importance to enterprise competitiveness. Figure 1 summarizes the topline data from that survey, illustrating how Social IT – while important – is clearly second-tier when it comes to buyers’ perceptions of competitive advantage. Emphasizing potentially disruptive, and therefore costly, re-invention adds to the sales challenge.

In sum: Psychologically, “change” is a threat to almost any entity, but especially to large enterprises and similar organizations. While any well-managed organization recognizes that it must grow and change in order to succeed, very few welcome or seek out change, and instead tend to deal with it as it happens. And where “change” is seen as a threat, “re-invention” is seen more as a menace. Classing a potentially important, yet currently second-tier, form of IT as a threat can only be counter-productive to sales and adoption of that IT.

Saugatuck’s continual research work among IT and business leaders and buyers clearly shows that IT improvements that deliver business improvements are by far the messages that resonate best. In fact, IBM is in a uniquely advantageous position in such situations, having a large and proven IT and business consulting services organization that is able and ready to explain and deliver the business benefits of Social IT integration – and then able to explain and assist in the management and extension of such benefits throughout customer enterprises.

This blog was originally published at Saugatuck's Lens360 blog on February 7, 2014. Published with permission.

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