Why organizations need a business ‘control tower’


Mark Ackerman, Area VP, Middle East and Africa, ServiceNow, writes on the need for businesses to have a ‘control tower’ in order to drive better decision making across the enterprise.

As the Middle East and Africa dusts itself off from the economic slump of the past two years, its enterprises have started down the road of their own recovery journeys in 2022. While each will be unique, the common thread will be a need to rethink what it means to compete. Digital transformation used to be about questions such as “Should we?”, “Will we?”, or “When will we?”. Now, business leaders are asking “How can we?” and “How soon can we?”. The luxury has turned into an imperative.

Suddenly discovering their organizations are not agile, cost-effective, or futureproof, when they need to be all those things yesterday, will set decision makers on a mad scramble — to reinvent policy and procure the architecture and tools to set their organizations on the right path. Indeed, we have already seen the scramble. As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella put it, in April 2020: “We’ve seen two years of digital transformation in two months.” Making such operational leaps requires going beyond the piecemeal, quick-win DX strategies used before the pandemic. After all, stakeholders see entire industries reinventing themselves daily. It is time for an overhaul — the kind that carries with it significant business impact.

But to climb such a mountain, business leaders need lakes of data. They need solutions that unlock the actionable insights within that data and deliver a rich visualization of the enterprise — a “control tower” — style vantage point. The benefits are plentiful.

The organization at a glance
The new control-tower console that decision makers have created will allow them to see the enterprise and its operations from a high-end perspective. They will soon notice how changes outside the business, in the world at large, connect to internal operations and employees.

They will be able to eliminate silos, so that data, operations, and DX projects are unified rather than limited to disparate departments. DX can then be linked to real-world needs. From the new control tower, senior managers can drive change from the top down, rather than department heads battling to convince others of something they alone have noticed.

These silo leaders also previously had the disadvantage of not being able to formulate a project plan that made sense in the wider business context. When control-tower leaders see the whole picture, legacy stumbling blocks are eliminated, projects become stronger, and transformation reaches all parts of the enterprise.

Systems at a glance
Technology — its function, the data it collects, the information it produces, and the processes it governs — will all come into focus in the control tower. From here, technology specialists and line of business owners can see what each system does and how… and why. They will be able to see more easily where things have gone wrong, why ROI is not forthcoming, and what can be done to fix the problem. The top-down view will reveal blockages in the path to value and allow enterprises to make changes to the technology stack that accelerate the DX journey.

Often, when the journey has stalled it is because legacy systems have been lumped together with new ones. This was particularly common in recent years as regional enterprises flocked to the cloud and unwittingly introduced more complexity into their IT suites. This also created problems for compliance in a region where regulators are becoming stricter. Clear, full-stack observability is vital, as are strong KPIs, in keeping businesses compliant.

The world at a glance 
The global digital economy is on the rise. There is no stopping it. There is no getting around it. This has implications for what businesses sell and for how they sell it. It has implications for who they sell to and how they engage them. And it has implications for who they hire and how they retain them. We now live, work, shop, and play in an experience economy.

Businesses, with their control tower, will be better equipped to evaluate this new world. They can look at the success stories of other businesses and industries to bring in new technologies that can help them reinvent their own operational models. It does not matter where innovation comes from; all that matters is the experience provided. If chatbots, IoT sensors, 5G, or augmented reality can delight customers, then those technologies are right for the business.

Employees at a glance
MEA is home to the most diverse set of cultures and traditions on the planet. We live amid a rich array of backgrounds, experiences, preferences, viewpoints, and habits. And blind spots. To address the needs of all, we need to eliminate knowledge gaps. Diversity needs to hold from the bottom to the top if we are to democratize the change going on around us.

You have glanced, but do you see?
The control tower sees all. The changes, the missteps, the value, and the waste. Entire industries may be moving in a particular direction, but is it the right direction? In 2022, the control tower may be on hand to support decision making. But decisions are taken by people. High-level views make it easier to identify issues, but action comes from human conviction. The right move can mean the difference between a problem and an opportunity. Make the right choice, and the future is yours.

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