With era-defining themes of digital transformation, blockchain, AI, IoT, the CIO's role in shaping new business models and more, we select the books published in 2016 that are essential reading for IT leaders.2016 may be over, but the scale of digital transformation seen during the past 12 months across business, society and in our personal lives marks it out as a watershed year for information technology. Digital contagion has spawned countless new business models in organizations large and small, while technologies such as AI, IoT and virtual reality have not only become viable but widely deployable.
The best-placed chroniclers of such revolutionary times are business authors and academics, management gurus and futurists, IT industry insiders and C-suite executives close to the action, and here we provide our pick of the best of their insight and analysis in our business books of 2016.Required reading for CIOsBe the BusinessCIOs in the New Era of IT
Through her executive recruitment company, Heller Search Associates, and her Movers and Shakers blog for CIO magazine, Martha Heller is arguably the highest profile CIO headhunter in North America. That makes her a confidante of top CIOs — and the management teams seeking to recruit them. In an era of momentous digital change, there is a critical question on their minds — is the CIO a leader of digital business strategy and, if so, what does it take for them to fulfil the role? The title of Heller’s book answers the question: CIOs should occupy what is still largely a digital leadership void. But doing so will mean augmenting their skill sets in some pretty dramatic ways. Heller does not try to paint the scope of that new role alone, but draws on the voices of numerous CIOs from companies as diverse as Stanley Black & Decker, Adobe, Vanguard Group, JetBlue and AstraZeneca. The advice is well-informed: CIOs — in cahoots with their business stakeholders — need to wrangle the multiple digital initiatives that inevitably exist across the company to ensure the resulting applications scale, integrate and are secure. In essence, their job is to make digital an enterprise capability. They need to be ‘competitive capabilities champions.’ By exploiting their end-to-end view of how the business works and knowledge of new technology capabilities, the CIO has the unique opportunity to propose how new process and product initiatives can create differentiation for the business. They also need to run IT like it was their own business, says Heller’s line-up of CIOs, placing investment bets like a CEO and fostering an innovative culture. While being business-oriented, though, they shouldn’t abandon their deep knowledge of the technology stack, the architecture or how a new array of suppliers fits into their portfolio. As Ralph Loura, CTO at Rodan + Fields, tells Heller: “To be a CIO today, you have to be the master of almost everything: technology, finance, legal….” As with The CIO Paradox, this latest book is written in Heller’s engaging, informal style, and provides deep and entertaining insights into what successful CIOs are morphing into.
• Read Martha Heller on ‘The critical success factors for digital CIOs.’
How the Technology Behind Bitcoin Is Changing Money, Business, and the World
Don Tapscott and Alex Tapscott
An authority on the social and economic impact of digital technology, Don Tapscott is a highly respected business author, strategist and management school lecturer whose bestsellers over two decades have included The Digital Economy, Paradigm Shift, Growing Up Digital and Wikinomics. So when someone of that standing proclaims that the blockchain is actually under-hyped, it’s time to really pay attention. The impact of the blockchain, says Tapscott, will be as big as the World Wide Web — if not bigger. Within 20 years, the financial services industry will be unrecognisable, and almost every industry — from energy supply to accountancy — will be profoundly disrupted, in some cases, mortally. The scale is such that blockchain has the potential to rewire the economic power grid, to effectively create a much more egalitarian and prosperous society. Such projections are argued with trademark clarity and insight in The Blockchain Revolution. Co-authored with his son Alex (an investment banker turned digital currencies expert and blockchain start-up strategist), the book maps out how blockchain establishes the internet as a platform for value exchange, making redundant the fundamental processes of many traditional intermediaries (money transfers, IP sharing, identity verification, voting, and so much more). It even argues that many newly minted digital business models (think Uber and Airbnb) will be short lived. Arguably the most important business book of 2016.
• See I-CIO’s Big Thinker interview with Don Tapscott.The Value ImperativeHarvesting Value from Your IT Initiatives
Gerald Grant and Robert Collins
With all the current focus on digital transformation, it’s easy to lose sight of some of the fundamentals of how CIOs create the operational structures that ensure IT delivers value — consistently and robustly. Those human and organizational factors are the sole focus of The Value Imperative. Jointly written by Sprott School of Business’s Dr Gerald Grant and one of Canada’s most respected IT leaders, Rob Collins, ex-CIO at analytics and applications development software company Cognos and formerly transitional CIO of the City of Ottawa, the book laments the persistently high levels of failure of IT initiatives, despite the application of industry best practices, and the gulf in communications and understanding that still exists between many IT organizations and the rest of the business. To address that the authors propose abandoning the traditional engineering model for business investment in technology, which they see as rigid and ill-equipped to cope with dynamic business requirements. Their well-considered alternative: an Agricultural Model, where the focus is all on bringing in the harvest. “We call on people to think like farmers, with IT investments planned, planted, cultivated, nurtured, harvested and renewed on an ongoing cycle” — with practitioners always keeping an eye on the changing weather. The result of five years’ research, including interviews with numerous CIOs, CFOs and other business leaders, it shows how that model feeds into a Value Realization Cycle focused on harvesting desired business value. It’s a book that’s bound to bring out the inner-agronomist in many CIOs.The City of TomorrowSensors, Networks, Hackers, and the Future of Urban Life
Carlo Ratti and Matthew Claudel
Carlo Ratti is something of a polymath: a trained architect and engineer, a digital entrepreneur, the head of an international design office, and a professor at MIT, where he directs its smart cities program known as Senseable City Lab. All of those disciplines come together to inform his thinking about the future of urban environments— home to more than half the world’s population. And it’s a future all about the intersection of atoms and bits. “The city has always been a canvas for our dreams,” he told I-CIO recently. “But today it’s not just a physical canvas, it’s a digital one too.” In The City of Tomorrow, he spells out how possibilities presented by technologies such as IoT, Big Data and AI have taken the evolution of the world’s cities to a turning point. “The way we understand, we design and we live in cities is being radically transformed.” The creation of future cities may have been the sole purview of urban planners, architects and social theorists but “today a new player is entering the arena, the computer scientist.” Drawing on a fascinating set of examples from his own and others’ research he scopes out how cities are already being reshaped by pervasive IT and connectivity. Think traffic congestion being eliminated by the orchestration of shared, driverless vehicles, or robot cleaners providing a healthier environment. Reassuringly, he believes, that all smart city activity needs to revolve around one point: the citizen “Optimization inflected with humanization will mean smart cites are neither metropolitan-scale computers more a network-enabled wild west. In short, smart cities need to be human-centric.”
• Watch our Big Thinker video series with Carlo Ratti.The InevitableUnderstanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future
Despite the promise of its subtitle, The Inevitable makes no attempt to provide a hit-list of the technologies that will shape the next 30 years. So there is no focused chapter on IoT or robots or quantum computing or some other specific technology. Rather this is a book about how we need to think about the development of technology — and, as such, it is as illuminating as it is insightful. Written by one of the founders of Wired, it sorts the technological forces erupting in our present lives into verbs that define what a technology — or a combination of technologies — can lead to rather than what they are. So ‘Flowing’ is about the fluid movement of information and the impact on its value, ‘Tracking’ is an analysis of the development of location and privacy, ‘Accessing’ and ‘Sharing’ are about the dissolution of ownership — activities animated by the application of several technologies cloud, virtual reality, AI, IoT and others. Far from being a conceit, this approach frees Kelly (and the reader) to think about the true underlying nature of the changes afoot. For example, Kelly’s ‘Becoming’ analysis explores the fundamental shift to the delivery of processes and services (rather than products) in a continuously and evolving way. So something like a car will no longer be see as a fixed product but an organic construct that is constantly being upgraded. Similarly, Kelly outlines how virtual reality will become a very real part of our lives and how mass surveillance is here to stay. Only by accepting their inevitable rise and appreciating the nature of the digital changes underway can we hope to “tame and civilize” them and determine how we want them to reshape future societies, he argues. As a philosophical discussion rather than a manual for the future, it’s a book that should inform the thinking of the business and society leaders shaping what lies ahead
.DisruptedLudicrous Misadventures in the Tech Start-up Bubble
In the white heat of digital innovation, it is hard for CIOs to not be promoters of start-up cultures within their IT groups as well as actively planting numerous digital pods across their organizations. But, not all characteristics of start-ups are desirable. Indeed, most organizations would be appalled at many of the day-to-day traits of real-life start-ups. Disrupted, by Dan Lyons, Newsweek’s former Silicon Valley editor, is a reality check for CIOs rushing to create cool captive start-ups. It shows why fail-fast/fail-often, lean tech mentalities can be so creative; but more, it highlights the highly unappealing and destructive side of start-ups as well — and why they should not be left without a grown-up in charge. This is a hilarious and acerbic account of Lyons’ 18 months as ‘marketing fellow’ at a well-known CRM software start-up, as it goes through its creative, yet sometimes dysfunctional years, complete with tales of over-pampered staff, meetings with teddy bears and dogs in attendance, all-night office partying, openly tolerated sexism and ageism, and stock option lust, yet ultimately the moulding of a leading marketing automation platform.
How Today's Market Leaders Can Beat Disruptive Competitors at Their Own Game
Jeff Loucks, James Macaulay, Andy Noronha and Michael Wade
Every year, 9,000 executives pass through the high-level business training at the Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Switzerland. And by 2015, almost every one of them was asking the same set of fundamental questions: Could start-ups use digital technologies and new business models to disrupt my industry or company? How are these disruptors attacking established businesses so successfully and quickly? And how can I access the same technologies to create business models that compete effectively and ward off these existential threats? IMD got together with some of Cisco’s brightest digital leaders to come up with some answers. Researching, surveying and interviewing more than 1,000 executives — including the leaders from numerous start-ups — and analyzing the business models of 100-plus disruptive firms, they have been able to gauge the scale of threat faced by different industries (their business models, offerings, and value chains) as they are sucked into ‘a digital vortex.’ The outcome: a series of models, strategies and approaches, centered on business agility, designed to help executives and the companies they run survive, and even thrive, in this volatile new world.
How Networked Markets are Transforming the Economy — and How to Make Them Work for You
Geoffrey Parker, Marshall Van Alstyne and Sangeet Paul Choudary
CIOs across many industries are being tasked with exploring how their organizations can become established at the center of the new ecosystems that are coalescing around new digital models. In insurance, for example, where things like driverless cars and sharing accommodation are resetting the traditional concept of the ownership of the customer, there are animated conversations between the insurance sector incumbents and automotive companies, energy firms and accommodation brokers about how they will form and control such platforms. The models inspiring them are, of course, Uber, PayPal and Airbnb and the like, but this is unchartered territory. Platform Revolution, written by three top academics aligned to MIT’s Initiative for the Digital Economy and Platform Strategy Groups, provides a deep analysis of how platforms work as they match producers and consumers in a multi-sided marketplace. As well as exploring the what, how, and why of this revolution, they also seek to arm the reader with an ‘owner’s manual’ for creating a platform marketplace, drawing on the strategies behind some of today’s rising platforms in sectors as diverse as shoes, spices, dating, energy, home appliances and education.
Also high on the I-CIO reading list
Digital Uncovered: It Takes a Lot More than Technology to Succeed in the Digital World
A primer on the potential of digitalization of business for your CXO colleagues.
The Business Blockchain: Promise, Practice, and Application of the Next Internet Technology
An illuminating and broad analysis of the impact of the blockchain on business.
Technology vs Humanity: The Coming Clash Between Man and Machine
Thought-provoking call-to-action on how the exponential rise of digital technology can be suitably harnessed and channelled rather than overwhelming key aspects of our lives such as work and social structures.
Alibaba: The House that Jack Ma Built
An authoritative account of the rise of China’s e-retail phenomenon, underscoring how the country’s entrepreneurs are just as capable of outstanding innovation and ambition as any of their Western rivals.
The Network Imperative: How to Survive and Grow in the Age of Digital Business Models
Barry Libert, Megan Beck, Jerry Wind
How the nature of business is undergoing a systemic change, with network models such as Airbnb and Uber showing how the models can rapidly disrupt and dominate.
Augmented: Life in the Smart Lane
IoT’s profound impact deconstructed by the author of Bank 3.0, with contributions from Deutsche Bank’s chief data officer JP Rangaswami and Xero CMO Andy Lark.
The Industries of the Future: How the Next 10 Years of Innovation Will Transform Our Lives at Work and Home
The shape of life to come from Hillary Clinton’s former innovation guru.
Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley
Antonio García Martínez
A warts-and-all account of the insular world of Twitter and Facebook as the social powerhouses thrash about trying to turn customer data into big money.
Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy
Exploring the dystopian potential of data-driven mathematical models.
China's Mobile Economy: Opportunities in the Largest and Fastest Information Consumption Boom
For western CXOs who’s view of the tech tsunami reshaping China is still opaque.
The Sharing Economy: The End of Employment and the Rise of Crowd-Based Capitalism
Socio-economic analysis by the New York University Business School professor of how digital empowers the sharing of assets and turns employment in gigging.
Digital vs Human: How We'll Live, Love, and Think in the Future
A witty and profound analysis of why a future dominated by digital technology needs to be first and foremost should human-centric.
The Economic Singularity: Artificial Intelligence and the Death of Capitalism
Informed, up-to-date analysis of the state and future impact of AI, and how automation will rewrite current economic models.
Big Data in Practice: How 45 Successful Companies Used Big Data Analytics to Deliver Extraordinary Results
Use case-rich volume for business management rather than data scientists, cataloging at a very high level how big data can be turned into business value.