Sunday, June 17, 2012

Three Perspectives on IT Mattering More Today

Whether IT matters or not may depend on the level of IT maturity.

Mr. Nicholas Carr wrote 10 years ago "IT doesn't matter" spurred quite many in-depth debates in the last couple of years, the book is insightful and resourceful, however, the prediction does not come true, on the opposite, IT matters more than ever in today’s rapidly changing business environment, with the latest technologies emerging, such as cloud, social, mobile and big data,  IT continues to play extraordinary role than ordinary utility in business, IT goes beyond infrastructure, more on innovation, improvement and insight & foresight of business, and become more integral part of business.

 1. IT is a Key Attribute to Business Capabilities

IT has always mattered. What's different is the focus. In the early days, it was more about infrastructure and support. This was the "utility" model of IT may matter less is the future. As the pace of change in technology increased, so did the need to commoditize those early models and concentrate on driving strategic business value.       

IT matters because it becomes an integral part and unique characteristics of the business and IT is a key attribute to business capabilities for building a high-performance enterprise. IT matters not only because it’s pervasive, more about it continues to advance, and its nature of the "constructive disruption": from enterprise IT for standardization to consumerization of IT for personalization; from siloed IT to hyper-connected and hybrid human/IT intelligence; from user interface to user engagement; from on-time, on budget to on value and customer centric, the right business decision need to follow with the prompt information/action technology. IT matters also because it's like our brain, analyzing, synthesizing, memorizing and most importantly, perceiving the future of business.

2. IT is the Means to the End, “MEANs” does not Mean Ordinary 

Either IT or finance is the means to the end, not the end, what is the end? The end means the more mature, value driven, high-performance business,  to unleash human potential, to explore the blue ocean, and to make the big economic pie with long term vision. From senior leadership survey, technology is the #1 investment goal for next five years in businesses cross-sectors, since they understand it's where their competitive advantage comes from. If businesses do not invest the right technology, they may already lose the game; though every business can approach the similar technology, they may not be able to achieve the same level of business capabilities, as it takes blended ingredients (people, process technology), all of them need go beyond ordinary in order to achieve competitive uniqueness and reach higher performance. Whether IT matters or not may depend on the level of IT maturity, at level three or under in where most of the businesses stick today,  IT is running as utility only. However, high-performance business needs a high level of IT maturity, IT actually becomes one of the key factors to decide the business's life span (now average Fortune 1000 survive 15 years or less), as IT directly drive your competitive advantage.

3. Either “IT” or  IT Leaders: Matter More than Ever

  • “I” Matters: IT  is only increasing in importance and relevance with each passing day. IT shifts to be more “I” focus: Information, Intelligence, Innovation, Integration, Improvement, Interface, the numerous perceptions of IT guide business toward the right direction;
  • “T” Matters: On the technology side, it should be “Action” driven, there’s no project for pure technology’s sake, every IT project is the business project, the technology still matters by its very nature of change for better, faster & cheaper solutions. “I” & “T” are the two wings to make enterprises become “flying elephants” IT also needs to learn how to present its true value via the right set of KPIs, walk the talk, using data to prove why IT matters

  • CIOs & IT Organizations Matter: CIOs and their centralized IT organizations are more critical than ever; on one hand, the biggest challenge for CIOs is keeping up and stepping up - recognizing the responsibility for ensuring that the business is better informed than competitors and more nimble at implementing the disruptive opportunities that are constantly emerging; on the other hand, today's digital environment blurs the borderline of functions, organizations, and even industries. Businesses always connect, with instant on information, BYOD, CoIT, application sprawling, shadow IT phenomenon, without centralized IT to help manage GRC/security efficiently, also do consolidation, standardization, integration, and optimization effectively, IT/business maturity level could decline from level 3 (alignment) back into level I (chaos.)
Therefore, CIOs need to gain a seat at the big table, it's not about status quo, it's about the voice get heard, the vision gets developed, and see the business beyond short-term finance lens only; co-developing business strategy by both business & IT can help avoid blind spots or pitfalls when executing it, and improve project success rate. If the CFO sells finance to get a seat at the big table via pitching “ the Management of Business Investment Portfolio” in 1980th, then CIO can learn how to pitch a strong value proposition such as “the management of business transformation portfolio” or create more inspiring elevator speeches in the 21st century.

In summary, IT matters to optimize business capabilities for both innovation and productivity; IT matters also because it brings up the culture of learning and agility for the changes; IT matters even more broadly as it instills the purpose of STEM education, engineers matter, scientists matter, and knowledge/wisdom matter.


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