Friday, January 3, 2014

IT Transformation: From the ‘Weakest Link’ to ‘Super Glue’

The digital connectivity and IT consumerization bring both challenges and opportunities for IT to improve its digital readiness and maturity.

Although more often than not, technology is the frequent disruptive force in the digital era, the majority of IT organizations are indeed still running at industrial speed, lack of reputation as an innovation engine. The hot debate in IT community is thought-provoking: "Why is IT mostly the weakest link and at times not getting enough respect despite all good work and huge efforts were undertaken? Where does it link to improve IT brand"? How to transform IT from the weakest link to the Super Glue of the digital transformation?

1. Why Has IT Been Perceived as the ‘Weakest Link’ 

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. While business partners may well understand, in theory, all the upfront work that has to go into defining and delivering a new service and the infrastructure to support it, that tends to take second place to their pressing need to move forward with efforts they see as critical to business transformation.
  • From a business perspective: IT is constantly in "developing" and "demand managing" mode while business has gone far beyond that! And these are the days of business users becoming tech savvy - another challenge to be addressed by IT. 
  • From a people management perspective: Value, self-worth, attachment, personality, empathy, interpersonal skills, and empowerment make IT sometimes the weakest link not so many technical skills
  • The business/IT project Scenarios set IT for failure: At a hierarchical organization running at the industrial speed, when IT is brought into a project, it often happens in one of three ways, all setting IT and the project up for failure.
    (1) IT is an afterthought: 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.
    (2) Communication is not clear between participants: 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.
    (3) Non-IT personnel doesn't understand technology thoroughly: They 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. 

2. From the 'Weakest Link' to the ‘Super-Glue’ 

The digital connectivity and IT consumerization bring both challenges and opportunities for IT to improve its digital readiness and maturity. IT has to adapt to every business unit and then glue them all together.

IT as customer champion: where the technologists aren't just "IT people," but instead are business partners with IT skills. When those technologists are treated as valued partners, special things happen. Of course, to get to that point, you have to develop trust and respect. That only occurs by proving yourself every day, sometimes in what may seem the most rival moments. It also means that the technologists have to take an interest in the business, step away from behind the computer monitor and understand the business issues.

It’s ultimately important for IT to discuss "what's possible" not just "what do you want": This requires (1) a certain depth of understanding the business and (2) having your input respected. The first is learned, the second is earned. Especially the "what is possible" part... don't just deliver what the business asks for, but be able to provide the "best solution" for the business' requirement, offering added value and feature insights based on system understanding, that the business might not even have thought of. To make the link strong is to enable the IT team and make them think through the business world while working on the solutions. This is a small step but a much-needed step! Any change has to be bi-directional, open, honest and unbiased. Managing expectations and end-user buy-in are what every project is about. This is especially true of IT, as most end users really have no clear idea of what is possible or not. In the end, If people get what they are expecting everyone is happier.

‘Super Glue IT’ goes through IT governance processes: IT value proposition comes down to three really basic tenets to shape current and future perceptions: transparency, communication and true partnership with the business. In the past, IT has categorized, prioritized, and designed solutions, bug fixes, enhancements; now with digital style, you need to work with other business leaders to make the strategic decisions together and proactively drive changes. IT has to become an integral part of the business.

For IT to break the cycle, from the ‘weakest link’ to super glue, it has to provide both business and technical insight into how they bring success to the company as a whole instead of being a commodity overcoming the "bad" experiences from the past, it needs to be proactive and value-added, and pursue long-term goals with strategic perspectives.


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