Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Tuning Digital IT: How to Transform IT From a Business Controller to an Enabler

Run, Grow, and Transform! IT needs to well run a balanced portfolio to both ‘keep the light on’ and drive digital transformation journey.

In today's digital business environment, information is the lifeblood, and technology touches every phase and each corner of the business, IT running in an industrial mode as a business controller or a gatekeeper no longer fits in the fast changing business circumstances or volatile digital dynamic, how to run IT with the growth mentality at digital speed? How to improve IT organization's maturity, from a controller to an enabler; from a support function to an innovation engine; from monolithic technology-heavy to mosaic information-driven?

IT needs to transform from an order taker to an order shaker: First, IT needs to gain a better understanding of the business and showing that knowledge by talking business to the business; and second, IT's ability to execute and communicate. If you cannot talk business to the business, or cannot communicate effectively about execution, you will leave others with no choice, but to order IT about which will be perceived as the only way to get anything done. IT at all levels needs to understand how the business makes and loses money, and it needs to articulate solutions around this with business language. Some of the most difficult aspects of digital transformation are helping IT professionals truly understand that they need to change, establishing a new culture, communicating, and then engaging so that the old culture does not slip back in.

IT needs to transform from a business controller to an enabler: Second, at the age of IT consumerization, businesses need to understand not only the power and the opportunity information could bring in, but also the potential risks they might get exposed to. If we are living in an information explosive world where technology is pervasive and the masses are looking for their own experiences to introduce new technology into the business, then we are also at a time when it is no longer acceptable for non-IT business people to plead ignorance or be exasperated about the issues of privacy, security, interoperability, etc. If you are savvy enough to be using cloud-based services, then you have to be savvy enough to, at least, understand that there are risks your company will take on as a result of your actions. So while IT must change in many ways, so must the business when it comes to accountability for technologies they want to introduce. The need for other areas of the business to change as well.  

IT has to strike the right balance between innovation and standardization: It is important for IT to standardize the applications and devices customers use to keep support cost down and manage risks effectively. With the advent of web-based and cloud-based solutions, this is no longer a major concern. The user can use almost any client device to access information, so long as the target system is secure and maintained by IT in a consistent and standard way. The new focus and challenge for IT are enabling different user access via the use of different online devices in a secure way. Often there is a huge gap between IT-Business mutual understanding and trust. On one side, most of the business managers still perceive IT organizations as support functions only, not inviting IT to brainstorm strategy; and IT leaders also say that they can't put together a strategic plan because the business doesn't have one. You need to see this as an opportunity - not a roadblock. So while the other areas of the business need to change, IT should ask itself how it can influence - and help - them to do that. After all, business and IT are all on the same team to ensure the organization as a whole can achieve an optimal business result for long term growth.
At the digital age, the CIO needs to be a 'bridge' - a networker and communicator lead his or her CxO colleagues on the digital journey: Enablement comes through being recognized as a trusted partner, and this trust does have to be earned. The technical knowledge and experience are needed, but the days of the overly technical CIO are numbered, modern CIOs need to be business strategists, talent masters, customer advocates and governance champions. Daily execution must absolutely continue. It will take a focused effort to begin moving forward. It begins by addressing the department's culture and mindset. At the same time, work with the rest of the C-suite to build trust and rapport. As you do that, talk to them about their expectations and needs. Show them some of the other things happening in other companies and industries. Build a case with them for IT transformation and show that you are the one to help make that happen. It helps tremendously to have another set of eyes looking at things from a different perspective, and giving you a sounding board for your thoughts and questions.

Run, Grow, and Transform! IT needs to run well a balanced portfolio to both ‘keep the light on’ and drive digital transformation journey. Trust is an extremely important factor in this journey. And it takes very solid leadership, focus, and the ability to build strong relationships with all levels of the organization, IT has to become a business enabler to catalyze the change and improve organizational effectiveness and agility.


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