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Gartner Catalyst: Three personas of a successful 21st-century business

Cloud, mobile and predictive technologies are required but aren't sufficient to compete today. Gartner Catalyst keynoter Paul DeBeasi says most organizations will need a personality makeover.

SAN DIEGO -- Gartner showed its subversive side on Monday. A presentation kicking off the IT research company's Gartner Catalyst conference was less about planning to implement technology and more about just doing it. It was less about forming consensus among teams and more about fostering divergence from the norm. It was less about answers; more about questions.

It's not a riddle; it's Gartner's prescriptive architectural model for the 21st-century business. Gartner Catalyst keynote speaker Paul DeBeasi, research vice president, said the technology foundation remains important: "mobile and cloud-first, predictive and self-conductive." But to lead in IT today, organizations need what DeBeasi calls three "personas": the agile architect, the user-centric designer and the innovative creator.

"Agility speaks to the architect and is focused on technology," DeBeasi said. "Design speaks to the designer in us; it focuses on user experience. And innovation speaks to the creator in us. It focuses on the way that we think."

The personality makeover was needed, he said, due to the colossal amount of information organizations are dealing with today -- more sensors, more data and more mobile applications. He cited Gartner predictions that there will be 25 billion sensors detecting and transmitting data by 2020 and that the amount of digital data will double every two years for at least a decade.

Agility: Monsanto goes against the grain with IoT

Paul DeBeasiPaul DeBeasi

But organizations like Monsanto are, as DeBeasi says, setting the pace. It's doing that by embracing how Gartner interprets agility: less talk and more action.

When the agro-tech giant wanted to combat seed loss in its production process, it had two options. One was to spend more than a year in planning and executing, "everything from identifying all the costs for the entire program to endless socialization of strategy and direction, to structuring projects to accommodate everybody's expectations and desires," said Fred Hillebrandt, infrastructure architect at Monsanto, based in St. Louis. The other option was to do something unorthodox and untested.

It took the gamble, outfitting grain trucks with Internet of Things (IoT) technology to monitor grain as it is transported from fields to processing factories. This way, Monsanto could identify seeds that wouldn't likely to germinate when planted, reroute trucks and move the seed out of production. It was a proof of concept that quickly moved to production. 

Fred HillebrandtFred Hillebrandt

After a year, the project generated $1 million in value, Hillebrandt said, and his team wanted to expand IoT projects.

"[We] delivered value first, then asked for more resources," Hillebrandt said. The business was taken aback by how little planning went into the effort, "but no one could argue the value."

Design, creativity: Aim for utility and emotional punch

Going against the grain, so to speak, worked for Monsanto, but DeBeasi said companies won't get anywhere with technology if applications aren't easy to use. 

"We need to provide great experiences for our employees just like we do for our customers," he said, introducing the next two new focuses in the Gartner model -- design and innovation. 

But the innovation part has to come first, said Lisa Kay Solomon, an innovation strategist, author and TED Talks speaker. Her message: Innovation is a personal practice, not something that happens by mandate.

She cited the Tinder dating app and Uber ride-sharing service as examples of applications that deliver functional utility and emotional engagement. They're easy to use and they get the job done. To get there, companies need to embrace a new kind of innovative process: one that puts together diverse teams, fosters conditions of discovery and really explores problems inside and out.

"A designer is not someone who makes choices for beautiful aesthetics," Solomon said. "A designer is someone who intentionally makes choices that trigger the right responses in others."

That message resonated with attendee Rhonda Price, chief architect for business and supply chain services at Boeing, based in Chicago. Price said Solomon gave context to a lot of the unguided fervor surrounding innovation. "People say, 'Go innovate.' Well, what does that mean?"

Gartner wanted to know what it meant to attendees, so DeBeasi invited attendees to tweet one innovative idea that people plan to take back to their companies, using the hashtag #GartnerImagine. The person with the most original idea will win an Apple Watch on Thursday. 

The challenge did fire up imaginations:

And @rajeshghandi had what I hope doesn't jinx my flight back to Boston:

Have a question about the story? Email Jason at [email protected].

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