Friday, July 1, 2016

Why Has IT Been Perceived as the ‘Weakest Link’

Back to fundamental, IT is not the weakest link in the organization, its PEOPLE.

IT plays a more important role in the digital transformation of the organization. It is the superglue to connect both the hard elements of the business such as processes, platforms, technologies and soft elements of the organization such as information, knowledge, culture and integrate them into a set of business capabilities, which underpin the business strategy. However, there is the perception gap between IT looks at itself and the business perceives IT. IT is often seen itself as a business enabler and change agent, but business often thinks that IT is slower to change, and even be one of the “weakest links” for the business transformation. So why is IT not getting enough respect despite all good work and huge efforts were undertaken? Where does it link to improve IT brand? To deal with such a "He said, she said" dilemma: What are the different perspectives from each party, how to integrate them into a holistic IT view and reinvent the tarnished IT reputation?

From Business Perspective: The majority of IT organizations still run in a static industrial mode -”built to last." More often, this comes down to the business feeling that IT can't keep up with their demand for new services, in other words, that IT isn't as agile as it needs to be. IT is constantly in "developing" and "demand to manage" mode while business has gone far beyond that! With the age of IT consumerization, these are the days of business users becoming more tech savvy. Without collaborative communication, business goes around IT for new technology. This is always a sign that something is not going right, and business reliability gets compromised. The worst thing to do is just put the policy in place to mandate it comes through IT since business will perceive IT as not a real business partner and drag down the speed of changes.

From IT perspective: Many organizations are not foresightful to empower their IT leaders or lack of in-depth understanding of IT responsibility, technology complexity, and the paradox of IT management -to both set up the standard and enable innovation. Often non-IT personnel doesn't understand technology thoroughly, and often think that it is far more capable than it is, and when it can't meet their lofty desires, blame it for their inability to succeed. Or, if the business does not invite the IT leaders to provide input or co-create strategy, IT turns to be an afterthought, and it's too late for a strong technical solution to be implemented in time. When this happens, it all falls down and it’s a bad IT system that caused it. If IT were the weakest link, and then miscommunication caused by people, especially business leadership, is often the root cause of it: Communication is not clear between the participants, and IT is developing a different solution than the other department had in mind. Again, it becomes all IT fault for delivering the wrong, even if it was what was requested.

From leadership perspective: The issue is not whether IT matters as it clearly does. The issue is whether most business leaders understand how IT matters, the innovative potential and complex nature of IT. IT is a business. Leadership is crucial to strengthen the links and weave them to the differentiated business capabilities which enable the digital transformation. 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 "us vs. them" mentality needs to be fixed. Innovative IT can only happen if IT is regarded as a partner and given the role in catalyzing innovation and driving the business.

To strengthen IT or any business link, organizations should shift from inside out-operation driven to outside-in customer centric. The digital revolution means that channels to customers, links with business capability, and even efficiency of the workforce critically depends on the information enabled by IT. Back to fundamental, IT is not the weakest link in the organization, its PEOPLE. The reality is that business leaders need digital acumen as much as financial acumen, and IT leaders need to gain business insight as well. To reinvent IT, it’s not about controlling, but take more resource to do innovation, not just IT innovation, but business innovation and strengthen the strength of the business as a whole to leap digital transformation.


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