Thursday, August 27, 2015

IT as a Business Innovation Enabler

IT is transforming from a static -”built to last” back-office function to a more dynamic “built to design” business enabler.

CIOs are the link between the business and the IT world and, therefore CIOs must play a proactive role in Enterprise Strategy. They definitely must have a deeper understanding of the business to ensure that IT initiatives enable and catalyze the business strategy execution, and business initiatives are able to be supported by IT. And to move up its maturity, IT has to be run as a business solution provider and an innovation engine.

IT is not just a set of tools to improve efficiency, but a business solution providers moving from functioning to delight. IT can introduce a 'measure' for assessing the potential for any improvement opportunity, feature enhancement, or initiative to offer a competitive advantage. For example, often organizations are biased heavily toward productivity and revenue enablement, which don't necessarily excite employees to see this as a great workplace, or customers to see IT as a very thoughtful and innovative provider. So it’s an opportunity for IT to leverage efficient and fun tools to delight employees or delight customers at the touch point of their Customer Experience. You have to model all of this in a way that it could be embedded in the way you work - you do not want this to become another department or cost center in the steady state. You can introduce some mechanisms to recognize and reward people for taking the lead - to highlight and accelerate the business innovation journey.

IT advocates and builds the culture of “Autonomy, Discovery and Mastery”: IT is in a unique position to oversight business processes, that’s why it can play a significant role in tangibilizing the invisible - culture via optimizing business processes and re-tuning organizational structure.  Re-reinforcement of the desired organizational culture also needs to be done through training and development, coaching, mentoring, continuous and objective performance review and feedback. Promote personal mastery - individual employees need to know and understand themselves before the organization. Promote organizational mastery - well alignment of the individual to the organization, and understanding fully and living the strategic foundations of the organization.  

IT should not just run the business today, but help to “grow the business” for tomorrow: IT leadership has, for some time now, been focused on driving efficiency on company's systems of record. Even if you have an operation’s "run the business" budget and a "grow the business" project portfolio, you shouldn’t sacrifice tomorrow ("transform the business") in favor of solving today's, or yesterday's problems, so you can keep running the business for long-term. IT people need to add new skills to assure they have the enough tools to influence the business and to understand requirements, this includes human side skills, like leadership, coaching and teamwork with others than technical groups. This will be the first step to ensuring having the correct approach with the business, ensuring empathy with customers and peers. IT can not rely only on the high degree of technical knowledge, at the end, people receive the service and evaluate value on the group to support budget and headcount. One way to help the business is to show a total effort and cost of ownership for a solution. For example, a business area has an idea to rapidly implement a SaaS solution. The business may only look at the subscription cost and not consider administration, software modification costs, integration costs, and compliance costs including documentation. So the conversation is not about telling the business "no," but educating them on the ownership of the solution and who/how/where to manage solution. In some cases, the IT organization is better suited to implement the SaaS solution with better governance discipline.

IT leaders have been tech nerds for too long, not taking the interest in true customer service, innovation, business thinking and so on. Just as 'the business' sees it increasingly needs more IT to develop and innovate core products and processes and demand that IT delivers, so should IT understands what it can offer to meet that demand and even surpass it by sparking business innovations made possible by technology push and information pull. IT is transforming from a static -”built to last” back office function to a more dynamic “built to design” business solution provider. It also highlights the role of IT leadership that is not static and has to be proactive to the ever changing environment, and often in real time.


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