Thursday, October 25, 2012

Tough Choice for IT: Change the Name, or Reboot Mindset

Changing a name rarely changes an organization or how it is perceived by its customers. IT needs to both reboot mindset and retool management discipline.

IT is being treated as a cost-to-be-controlled for years -It may be reasonable because many IT organizations are seen as IT help desk to keep light on, or simply cannot give a fair accounting of where the money is going in terms of business capability or, more importantly, directly identifying the business value -- which leads to an inability for IT to its value to the lines-of-business. However, with business across sectors moving from industry speed to digital speed, IT becomes so pervasive and critical, information is the lifeblood of the organization, and IT is business’s “digital brain”; many companies started with marketing driven, then finance driven, consumer driven, lately become IT driven...Can IT really be a game changer to drive business growth?Should the name then reflect the IT contributions and have people aware of the criticality of its value?

1. Re-brand IT

Does name change make IT transformation more radical? it’s situational driven.  Some argue branding is very important because it links to funding and Senior leadership buy-in. With regards to what to rename the current ‘IT Department’ and why, as far as how to re-brand IT, determining a brand identity begins with a couple of steps: 
1). What is the vision for your company?
2). What is the mission of the IT Department? How does the IT Department see itself contributing to the company’s mission?
3). What are the products and services that are offered by the IT Department?
4). What value do these products and services bring to the company? What would happen if the IT Department did not provide these services?
5). Who is the target market for these products and services? Given a choice, why would the employees want to utilize the IT Department?
6). Based on the above steps, sum up the characteristics of the IT Department and understand the relationship between the IT Department and its target market. 

Interestingly, at one of online brainstorm forums, some suggested IT change to Information Service Department; and others think Business Technology Division more fit for IT mission. Well, put emphasis on “I” or “T” only seems just tell the half of IT story: information without technology is outdated bits & bytes, and technology without information is old nuts and bolt. Overall, IT is not necessarily so bad name, it is well-articulate what it is doing: information + technology, information is the lifeblood of the modern enterprise, and technology is a strong pillar to run any business; though modern IT needs to be perceived more brightly.  If IT does need some changes in name, focus on these keywords:

  • I: Information/Insight/Integration/Innovation: because information is lifeblood and foundation of any business today.
  • T -Transformation: If traditional IT often limits our imagination, then the transformation is a mission for IT to improve business/customer intimacy and embrace digitalization. 
  • S - Strategy/Solution/Security: IT needs to become business's strategic partner via strategic sourcing, investment, and communication. IT should go beyond service, to provide a business solution, and security is always the bottom line to any business.
  • V -Value business value: It is the key for IT to focus on, without delivering business value, IT is still cost center. 
It should also a good practice to select meaningful names to the divisions under IT organization, in order to consolidate and integrate IT teams to adapt to business changes and enforce management discipline, such as: put the Database Administration (DBA), the Data Administration (DA), and the Business Intelligence (BI) teams under a new subdivision, named “Information Management” to streamline information management process. Or, put “B” before IT--Business Information Technology Department well leverage the common business understanding and good reputation IT try to convey, and well bridge the past and future of IT help to unify the value proposition both business & IT agree on.

2. Reboot IT Mindset

 Change name is easier part, only scratch the surface, the hard part is to reboot IT mindset:

  • Communication: One of the major sources of the divide that segregates business and IT is the communications dialog - the lexicon used to communicate between people. One of the many paths to attempt to close this chasm and get IT closer to the business, is the words, titles, names, concept descriptions used, that indicate that IT is NOT just a service provider but is attempting to become that business partner, then a trusted advisor and business peer, and maybe even a trusted business leader, transcending their functional IT silo
  • Leadership: It is not something that is done by the tired cliché of leading by example, but in creating that compelling vision, the unique value, that ability to enable others to succeed, that gets you to the top, not on the backs of others, but carried on their shoulders in triumph. What can you do to make your business counterparts into heroes? It is not about making IT look good, but in making the business players be everything possible with your help. 
  • Strategic Partner: IT customers (the business units) are looking for strategic business partners that have a bird-eye view of all the business processes due to the system and landscape knowledge IT have maintained over the years; or with good operational knowledge of the entire business combined with advanced systems and architectural knowledge. The more intimate IT can be with the business needs, the faster IT can move up the ladder to a business partner, then business peer, and maybe even a business leader. 
  • Value: IT can be just a service organization, provide commodity services (and be outsourced to a cheaper provider), or they can identify where they can add extreme value to an organization, to the business, and to overall business leadership. So IT's DNA may well transform to IV--Information Value.  

3. Retool IT Management

After rebooting mindset, the next step is to retool IT management, the practices include: reformulate principles, develop strategy, restructure the organization and present a new value proposition.

  • Modeling Powerful Collaboration: The most effective CIOs are moving in the direction of taking responsibility to have an investment in technology really pay off by modeling powerful collaboration in their own organization and also inspiring and teaching their business colleagues to collaborate. Get IT people invited to staff meetings in every organization. Create a liaison/business partners group with technical people that can understand business. Meet the business leaders frequently - find out what they need; share the unique insights as to what IT capabilities can provide; work out if it makes financial sense, balancing the risk/reward tradeoffs. 
  • Information Life Cycle Management: at many organizations, IT does not own information, but IT is a steward to manage information holistically, from data storage, data integrity, data security/governance/risk management, data insight/foresight. Without streamlining data management, siloed data is a barrier to making the right decision or optimizing business process, as data-based business analysis is the key factor to differentiate leaders from laggards.
  • Agility: Agile is no longer just about the software development methodology, it's philosophy to run IT via iterative communication & cross-functional collaboration, shorter cycle, and faster delivery.., etc. via advanced talent, process, and technology. 
  • Measure IT Value: IT departments need to move beyond the standard SLA's and KPIs and start measuring the ROI for the business value they deliver as innovators. It is the turning point to turning the brand around. Running IT like a business, If you were going to invest money in the market, would you do it without any measurement or report of return? No,  you wouldn't.
Therefore, changing a name rarely changes an organization or how it is perceived by its customers. IT needs to both reboot mindset and retool management discipline, more proactively anticipate business value delivery through knowledge of information technology, also become business’s strategic partner. IT may not necessarily transform data center into an art center, but IT should deliver the fresh image: not a "NO" department, but a "YES" department; not a laggard, but a leader, not always stick to the old box, but shape some innovative new box. That’s a radical IT rebranding, and IT is still full of imagination.

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