Saturday, October 8, 2016

"CIO Master" Book Tuning #115: Three Disconnect to Stop IT from Unleashing its Full Potential

We live in a fast-paced digital world, and every day, the exponential growth of information plus emergent technologies affect the way we live, think, and love. Digital transformation is inevitable, opportunities and risks co-exist - roadblocks, pitfalls, and disruption are around every corner. IT leaders have to overcome many barriers and deal with quite a few of IT management dilemmas in transforming IT from a cost center to value creator, from a support function to a strategic business partner; from a back office to an innovation front yard. Here are three disconnects to stop IT from unleashing its full potential?

Silo thinking and effects are one of the biggest obstacles for IT and the business as a whole to achieve high performance and high maturity: Silos are a product of organizational insecurity and internal competition for resources. This is a cultural problem resulting from poor leadership and bureaucratic management style. In business circumstances, say, you have groups of people who will execute whatever comes down the pipeline, and those that have problems with tasks will ask questions. How these questions are handled, more than anything else, will tell you the health of the organization, do they have a silo mentality or have a holistic perspective. Silos have individual goals, but strategic goals need to be shared and common to ensure the whole is optimal than the sum of pieces. Top leaders who are someone above the silo are supposed to connect all the individual puzzle pieces together. Great organizations are supposed to maximize the individual and the group. Open communication and sharing increase the ability to fulfill your mission, satisfy your customer or client base, and improve employee productivity and engagement.

The gaps between the business strategy and IT strategic goals, as well as disconnect between IT goals and employees' performance mapping are the barriers to stop IT from unleashing its full potential: In most organizations, the business strategy is an archived document by which daily decisions are rarely driven. Hence, strategy management and change management should go hand-in-hand, strategy and execution are not linear steps, but an iterative continuum. Unfortunately, these days the change is forced, and people are not often involved, the transformational change is becoming “technology” change, and people side of change is completely ignored. The group does not have a clear, mutually agreed-upon approach: mechanics, norms, expectations, rules, etc.Often the middle management are the bottleneck and do not want to change. The digital transformation effort fails when change is forced, you can implement system and process, but the organization will suffer. Nobody will be happy and productivity will decline, employees’ engagement is low, innovation is stifled. Effective and proactive change and improvement can originate routinely from staff level as well as through specific change mandates from senior management. The key issue is whether management recognizes a need for improvement and will support both the changes and the necessary change management and training/orientation.

The wrong cause of the problem will perhaps grow new or larger problems  and create the disconnect between IT and the business: Either for individuals, organizations, or society as a whole, the problem-solving capability is crucial to surviving and thriving. Often times, people have a tendency to try to fix a symptom which results from the actual cause of the problem. When they do this, they allow problems to grow under the surface, out of sight, out of mind, until it’s too late. So trying to fix the wrong cause of a problem will waste time and resources, increase anxiety and lead ineffectiveness. From a management perspective, many decision-makers fail to fully grasp and accurately perceive what leads to problems and difficulties.better solution that crosses all industries is to keep peeling back the layers to find the root cause through asking big WHYs, or taking systematic approaches - to discover the real cause, and address it. From talent management perspective, when people are not working via the system to solve the real problems but play with the system, fix the symptom or build “comfort zones” which causes frictions to changes and stifles innovation, you know that there is the serious problem, and there are many possible causes of it. From process management perspective, the elements of an outdated system are built using out-of-favor or at least depreciated tools, running on out-of-favor platforms, or documentation not matching the actual system. The bad systems are also possibly caused by complicated processes or inflexible procedures with unnecessary complexity. The good alignment of people, process, and technology is important in connect the right dots and solve the real problems in a structural way.

For IT to break the cycle, from the ‘weakest link',to superglue and digital conductor, it has to provide both business and technological insight into how it brings the success to the company as a whole, it needs to be proactive and value-added for building business-IT relationship, enhancing cross-functional communication and collaboration, improving IT portfolio success rate and overall performance, and pursuing long-term goals with strategic perspectives.

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