Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Digital Trend: IT Matters More

A new way of management is management by information technology.

Information technology is penetrating into every core process of the organization; companies that lacked the skills to manage information technology effectively suffered compared with competitors that had mastered those skills. IT does matters more, but how to manage IT more effectively?

As a first step, IT must be given a “seat” at the table: While no one can question that IT can be a key for the business efficiency. It all depends on the business leaders how to use it. It is as relevant as any other technology. Put it to a good use and it shall deliver. Unfortunately, some organizations are still keeping their IT in their back rooms. Unless IT leadership and organizational leadership work together collaboratively, the perception of IT is going to get worse before it gets better. The issue is not whether IT matters as it clearly does. The issue is whether most business leaders understand how IT matters. The debate about the IT Function is sterile as it only examines the issue in the context of a hierarchical silo organization. Whether one wants to organize IT as a functional silo, the reality is that digital is all pervasive. The IT leaders change the thinking from 'aligning business' to 'becoming a business'. This would go a long way of changing the perception of IT. 

The issue is the business context definition: Can your company rely on an IT system that is a commodity (standardized usage of technologies), or is the IT system the core of your business? The approach depends on the company business and the role that IT plays in defining its positioning in the market. Technology is merely another goods to sell, just like everything else. If you don't have a specialist who knows what (s)he is doing, you are going to end up listening to (and believing to) salesmen pitches that do not necessarily fully conform to your needs, and most of the time they don't have the best price/performance ratio. We all know that IT is a core component of any organization. It is not how much a company invests in IT but how. A company can invest a lot in IT, but it does not mean that it has to have it all in-house. The pressure to reduce costs and optimization of the cloud business models make the cloud paradigm to become more interesting for companies. 

It all depends on how the business processes are leveraging IT: IT is highly relevant. You may split IS and IT as the two require different approaches. Both are enablers to business change as they facilitate the cycle to move from data through information to intelligence. Business leaders require information to provide intelligence to make the right decisions, and as businesses embrace change as a constant, more will be asked of IT and IS to move quickly and efficiently to keep on top of the agenda. In organizations who are optimally using IT for innovation and leverage, it is highly relevant. In organizations who are still doing the business the old way and using IT in limited fashion will have the only limited impact on IT. data and information needs. All this must also be done within the confines of GRC, as the same information being used to make key decisions can be used by others to do more harm than any other competitive strike.

IT is a business strategy: In almost every business environment, IT is an enabler / a tool that needs to be used efficiently and treated as an asset like any other capital investment specified and used accordingly- you would not purchase machinery to only have it used 50% of the time!  In 2014, there is still a debate over whether IT is important; a unique data was produced than the previous 5000 years. Why does this matter? Because the tsunami of technological change, from Internet of things to changing relationships Gen Y employees have to work and IT, is about to envelope every business. IT is a business strategy. So what we do have going is a relentless enthusiasm for change. We know our world get reinvented every few years and we just keep at it. We read, we try, we understand, we apply. 

IT impact is significant: IT is impacting every business unit and is becoming the driver of business change. Good forward planning and strategy are paramount as is business process alignment with any proposed technology - Every Budget is Becoming an IT Budget" (Gartner). There are still so many cases where businesses insist on customizing / adapting systems to match current working practices - opportunities are missed to review and/or re-engineer process and practices. After all, if you have a process that is "wrong," the application of technology will simply make getting "wrong" quicker !! In all seriousness, yes, of course, IT matters, just as much as any other key functional area within an organization. If IT is a problem, it's as much a reflection on the organization and its leaders as it is on IT and its leaders. It means that the organizations are not planning and executing collaboratively. Fix that and you'll fix your IT issues.

The reality is that business leaders need digital acumen as much as financial acumen: The digital revolution means that channels to customers, links with supply chains and even efficiency of the workforce critically depends on the information enabled by IT. Yet, many executives would prefer the IT could be dealt with like plumbing in some case, and IT in other cases is like the furniture in the office - it is just part of the deal. On another end, it is to be appreciated that it is a constantly evolving field requiring IT leadership and a sound understanding of how an organization can leverage it at any particular point in time. Again, organizations can choose to play small and big in this area. The results will be evident in either case.

Admittedly IT has come a long way to where it is today: Yes, IT does matter. But, not IT as a silo specialist function. From the days when geeks sat in the corner and talked with mainframes to where they contribute significantly and directly to the business model and direction. Embracing digital is inevitable as that is now part of the deal.... IT is no longer that island, or corner and those who still want to stick in that corner or periphery are living in a fools paradise! Businesses need people who are passionate about exploiting information enabled by information technology to work at the heart of the enterprise. As organizations that do not respond to external environmental changes will quickly outcompete as more innovative enterprises take their customers. Both private sector and public sector ultimately respond to the external environment as geopolitics, rapid innovation, and social expectations change the business landscape.

IT is, and will continue to be, a critical department: The real question is whether IT is seen as a necessary expense - a provider of devices and software - or a true strategic business enabler - a group that creates tools for individuals to do their jobs dramatically more efficiently. That is exactly why IT is a team effort where members of the team work together to accomplish common goals. IT professionals and IT teams need both an internal as well as external focus when it comes to staying up to date with advances in technology. This is where your business partnerships come to play a role, as does being active in technology organizations is crucial. Whilst "every budget becomes an IT budget" and the business feels increasingly enabled to free itself from the constraints and limitation of IT, moving to new siloed solutions, now empowered by XaaS, it has become more obvious that data and information stored and processed in the IT boxes is the real source of business innovation. The question being, who is best positioned for ensuring that data, whatever big it may be, is made available as consistent, quality checked information to the business, especially for the analytical purpose.

So the answer to this simply sounded, but intriguing question: Does IT Matter? IT not only matters but also so critically, many times, it is a determining factor of success for your larger business strategy to achieve the fast growth and long-term sustainability of large organizations. If you are a senior decision maker and you are afraid of Digital, then how can you be a well-rounded leader? All business leaders need Digital Acumen! Does IT matter? - try pulling the plug on IT and see where that gets you. 


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