Q&A: Vivek Ranadivé, Tibco

Mark Samuels spoke to the founder and chief executive of real-time software specialist Tibco to discuss IT change and how businesses can make the most of the information explosion.


There's been an incredible amount of change in the IT industry since Tibco was formed. Can CIOs expect technology innovation to continue?

As exciting as the last 20 years have been, the best days of technology are still ahead of us. We're sitting on the precipice of a great period of innovation. The amount of information that's available is incredible. The future is exciting everything that has already been done can be done better. And that's what great innovation is really all about.

Be careful not to implement tools that allow data to go somewhere to die.

What forces are helping to shape change and how will innovation affect the information that helps differentiate successful businesses?

There are five forces helping to shape the digital business: the massive explosion in the amount of data; the emergence of mobility; the rise of software platforms such as YouTube and Facebook that allow individuals to reach a global audience; the tremendous economic growth in Asia; and the increasing prominence and importance of mathematics.

Successful businesses in the digital age deal with these forces and deliver value. You no longer have to know why something happens; you simply need to know what is happening. To allow this to happen, you have to find the right platform. Using the right information at the right time, and in the right context, is the key to creating extreme value.

Information might be crucial to the modern business but what does the right platform for value creation look like?

There's a shift back to enterprise social networking taking place. If you're a business, your social strategy needs to be more than just having a Facebook page. People think social networks are the gold for businesses but organisations themselves already have the gold and that is the relationships they have built with their customers. You can use social networks to develop better types of engagement with your customers.

Analyst firms like Gartner believe the rise of digital technology will mean more IT spending is centred with the CMO, rather than the CIO. Is that something you're seeing?

Historically, our conversations have been centred on the CIO. If we string all the various elements of our technology together, such as analytics, social and security, then we still tend to sell to the CIO.

But we also believe a new social enterprise is emerging, one where people can access information from any location. If we're talking and selling social IT to a particular individual in the organisation, then our conversations could be with the CIO, an enterprise architect or someone else that's in charge of the digital project. And increasingly, when we look at customer engagement and loyalty, our sales target is very much the CMO.

Businesses have already bought a lot of technology and are under pressure to keep IT spending in-check. When it comes to purchasing new tools, where should executives direct their attention?

Simply getting information to the right place is not enough. In an organisation, the right place could actually be an individual, because, in the modern enterprise, each person is creating and absorbing content. It all means that social technology is key for vendors that are trying to make the most of their tools and to help businesses move forwards in the modern age. Integration is an absolutely crucial skill for professionals looking to make the most of digital IT.

Why is integration so important for the digital business and how will employees take advantage of information?

The integration layer is becoming the enterprise architecture of the modern organisation. In the twenty-first century organisation, there are lots of events happening simultaneously. Companies that are successful with IT will be social engineering specialists, rather than simply being good at coding. Employees across the business will be able to draw on tools on-demand to create the real-time information needed to make decisions. The future of IT is not about software as a service but actually software as a self-service.

Self-service sounds sensible enough but firms are being swamped by data. So, how can CIOs create a strategy for making the most of real-time information?

The old model of IT and analytics was about tying everything to the database. The problem with that approach is that information gets lost and then nobody knows what is actually happening in the business. Success in Big Data is all about operating in real-time. The modern world has to be event-driven and real-time; your business executives don't want to have to dip into the database and ask questions. CIOs need simple rules for business intelligence that help produce big benefits. Such rules mean that, if certain events occur, specific information-led responses are automatically triggered.

What will be the watchwords for IT leaders who are looking to create a new model of enterprise technology?

CIOs must operate their systems with low latency and high scalability. The business has already spent a lot of money on hardware and software. It already has a series of embedded systems; do executives really want to spend $200 million on an SAP project, or do senior leaders want to operate with more flexibility? Being able to drop in new technology, that provides integration, is the way to sell technology to the board.

What would be your advice to senior business leaders who are looking to spend money on digital technology?

Be careful not to implement tools that allow data to go somewhere to die. Don't buy more software that just sits on the shelf. You can't afford to waste money on IT and the business will not allow you to. Tibco might not be as flashy as Salesforce but we have a history of dominating the markets within which we operate. We have a cookbook of recipes that makes our technology easy to use. And we have partners that help you to create new types of engagement, both within and outside our firm.

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