Sunday, March 6, 2016

Running Digital IT from Good to Great

Running a digital IT from good to great starts from the transformational IT leadership to convey vision, implement strategy, harness communication and enhance collaboration.

IT is doing good during the "glory years" when hardware was exploding, leverage and capitalize it was more specialized and centralized. Now with emergent lightweight digital technologies and the trend of “software eating the world,” "IT" has been demystified and become more cost-efficient and transparent and is aggressively sought after and embraced by the business. It doesn’t mean the value proposition of IT has devolved, though, on the opposite, there is plenty of value to be put in the "I" side of IT, there is a high expectation of running IT as a digital engine and business growth catalyzer. Indeed, it is the time to run IT from good to great, but how?


Business value clarification: Since IT is becoming more and more as a business in most sectors. IT can not be seen as an enabler unless IT management clearly understands what their organization does for a living. It is important that the IT organizational leadership is involved setting the business strategy and goals of the company. While it is also essential to have IT represent their values as part of entire organization's objectives, it is, even more, important to have IT and non-IT organizations collaborate on creating the organization's vision, strategy, objectives, mission, plans. In order to demonstrate IT value, organizations need to first know wherein lies the IT value. If you understand that upfront by doing the right strategic questioning, you can later go back and ask if you achieved the value that had been set out to attain. 1) How does IT become strategic? and 2) How does IT deliver maximum value? Too often IT is not involved at a goal level but instead at a task level. This creates an environment where the IT folks focus less on the objective and more on the rules and processes that are defined for their department. So instead of working to find solutions they sometimes view their responsibility as to evaluate risks solely from a risk perspective. IT and the business need to work together in the planning process. This is becoming ever more important, due to increasing speed of changes and continuous digital disruption. More broadly speaking, IT is about distributing and sharing intelligence on the scale, and assisting in fulfilling the business purpose and organizational needs uniformly, fairly and effectively. The CIO has to work with the senior executives to understand the business, the business drivers, long-term objectives, and strategy and then ensure that he/she is providing input to support these. This, in turn, will lead to the development of related IT strategies / initiatives. IT is not just part of the business; it is a critical, integral component of the business.


IT as a business capability builder: The focus of digital IT needs to provide business capabilities, not just services or solutions. Generally speaking, the capability is the ability to achieve the desired effect under specified performance standards and conditions through combinations of ways and means to perform a set of activities. IT is not just the sum of services or processes, or monolithic hardware only, IT needs to build a set of value-added digital capabilities via weaving all necessary hard and soft elements, in reaching high-level maturity. Organization’s capabilities can be categorized into the competitive necessity and competitive uniqueness. IT is the crucial element in building both. Capability can "contain" many services, processes, and functionality in which IT as one of the most critical elements weaving them together and building up unique business competency. In any case, to monitor or seek disruptive opportunities requires the business’s transformational capability with agility to adapt to changes. Therefore, IT capabilities directly make an impact on business capabilities, and IT maturity is proportional to overall organizational maturity. For example, nowadays, change is no longer just a one-time business initiative, but an ongoing organizational capability to adapt to today’s digital dynamic and velocity. Change is happening all the time, the management just has to acknowledge and appreciate that. "Change" can be a somewhat mechanical implementation of new or different ways to doing something while leapfrogging changes like digital transformation need to shift people's mindset and processes underneath "business as usual." IT is always at the center of change, it’s also an important element in building the business’s change capability. IT is the only entity in the organization supposed to understand business entirely and oversight organizational processes horizontally, and pay attention to the change processes under the surface, in order to build change as a crucial business capability via platform approaches and systematic disciplines. A great IT organization can differentiate its organization from the competitors via achieving the desired capability outcome.  


Prioritize to delight customers: It’s essential to run IT as a business with customer centricity. Every IT project is a business project to delight customers, engage employees and improve operational excellence. IT has two sets of customers as well, the internal users who count on IT to equip them with the effective technology tools to improve productivity and work satisfaction; and the end customers who shop the business’s products or service and continue to compare their customer experience with competitors.' At the age of people including both customers and employees, IT needs to set priority to digitalize every touch point of customer experience. So being customer-centric is a strategic objective and a digital trend, not just a performance indicator. A valid strategic objective and the strategy mapping allow you to first understand your customers (both internal users and end customers) and what they value, then identifies how to best characterize that value through project portfolio management, define key indicators, and then define those measures appropriate to best assess the performance of these indicators because they show you how well they satisfy or delight customers.


Running a digital IT from good to great starts from the transformational IT leadership to convey vision, implement strategy, harness communication and enhance collaboration. It demands quality time spent with sales/marketing, operations, finance leaders and even end customers. The CIO has to foresee, anticipate business needs for information and then prepare and gear up the information systems to not only make readily pertinent information to top business decision makers but also preempt the need and present the value accordingly. IT needs to strike the right balance between building business competency for the long term and keeping the light on at the moment, and IT needs to shift from insight-out operation driven to outside-in customer centric.

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