Wednesday, September 28, 2016

"CIO Master" Book Tuning #106: The Management of IT is not just the “IT’s Business”

The management of IT is the integral management discipline to ensure that the business as a whole is superior to the sum of pieces.

IT management is the management discipline and a set of practices that all of the information technology resources of the organization are managed in accordance with its priorities and needs. In fact, the management of IT is not just the IT department's business, it takes Board and top leadership team’s commitment, and the support from all level of the organization, in order to keep the information flow seamlessly across the functional border, and break down the silo walls through the latest digital technologies and collaboration tools.


Effective IT management means understanding every island of operation and every workflow process smoothly: IT is not just an isolated support function or act as a controller only. With emergent digital technologies, the traditional functional boundaries are disappearing or at best becoming very murky. IT leaders are caught between "how do we adopt and leverage" and "how do we control." The worst thing to do is just putting the policy in place to mandate it comes through IT since business will perceive IT as not a real business partner. Hence, IT management effectiveness is not based on the inside-out IT operational lens, but through the outside-in business lens with the comprehensive understanding that a CIO would be able to identify true cost savings, workflow optimizations, and additional revenue opportunities for the entire company and improve its competency. The management of IT goes beyond IT because often information has to flow across functionally with the business ecosystem in order to capture the real business insight in a comprehensive way. It takes organizational-scope support to manage business information life cycle. In some cases, IT organizations lag behind the LOB counterparts and no standard system of record. In fact, IT seldom has standard processes across all of the different teams. To improve IT management effectiveness, IT needs to address the underlying disparate tools and approaches to understanding holistic information in order to improve management capabilities. For all of these aspects, the management of IT is not just within IT.


IT failure is caused by the management of IT rather than just IT management: IT is the means to the end, not the end. That said, IT is not for its own sake, IT is about using technology to lower costs, improve operations, and increase revenue. It is not a function that can be handled only inside the IT department or by IT managers. The responsibility for evaluating the performance of IT investment lies squarely with the C-Level/board leadership team. Without full support from both top-down and bottom-up across the organizational scope, IT does not have all the information needed, IT staffs do not have all mechanism and authority to collect that information and they do not have all the skills necessary to evaluate the information. Without effective guidance/support from the board, the managers in the IT department are perhaps working in the dark - with the mushroom style management. An effective IT management can be achieved not only via the strong IT leadership but also needs to have the collaboration and fully support from the top leadership team.


High influential IT leaders have to understand the “ three side of coin”: IT, business, as well the interaction between IT and business: Most of the executive peers do not have a deep understanding of technology/process while effective CIOs have to know both the business and the technology side of things. You cannot know only one piece of the equation. IT provides a nervous system to the business. If information based business insight built is poor or not managed in a proper way, it may lead to wrong decisions and hence impact on the business survival. Hence, business needs IT to provide better information to achieve improved profitability. IT management effectiveness can be achieved when IT delivers precise, authentic and on-time information to the business for making right decisions at right time to make efficient use of all other resources, improve enterprise revenue through better customer loyalty. IT management maturity totally depends on a deep understanding of the business and implementing it using IT tools and techniques. From IT leadership perspective, IT leaders need to practice expert power (business and technical knowledge) for advising the business and building the mutual trust. Business and technical knowledge would help a CIO understand business priorities, opportunities, and the strategic need for IT. IT leaders should also develop the prestige power (connections) to bridge gaps and enforce business-IT relationship via effectively communicating the strategic importance of IT to the executive team.

IT is the business. The management of IT is the integral management discipline to ensure that the business as a whole is superior to the sum of pieces; it takes the collaborative effort across the entire business scope to streamline processes and keep information flow seamlessly. IT needs to take more resource to do innovation, not just an over-controlling support function to keep the light on; it has to transform from a cost center to a value creator.

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