Thursday, October 16, 2014

Is it time for Business to take IT more Seriously

Learning and understanding are the two-way streets!

There are many great discussions on how IT leaders and staff shall learn more about business, educate themselves on the business of their company, and be intensely attentive to directly enhancing that business. Not just doing IT projects. IT is here because the business is here. However, everything has two sides, more often than not, technology turns to be a disruptive force in business transformation, IT project failure directly impacts the business bottom line and top-line growth, but the apathetic response to failure, almost the acceptance that I.T. projects will fail, is shocking. Is it the right time for business to take IT more seriously? And how?

IT is a key component of a holistic business mindset: The mindset that needs to change is that of business. Companies that continue with the status quo will not win in this ever more competitive digital business dynamic, because the most powerful and differentiating tool in all of today's businesses is INFORMATION and that, is provided by IT systems. Anyone with common sense can perceive that, and all forward-looking businesses are declaring they are in the information business regardless of the sectors and nature of the business. Most of the business stakeholders are tempted to rely much on an estimation matrix than on IT side practice. Here are a couple common symptoms when business and IT are divided: when a techie guy has improvement proposal for a running project, the standard answer from the business side is something like that - 'We know this is challenging for the IT, but we see no reason for implementing differently.’ Or problems arise when expertise boundaries are crossed, either way, a business user thinks he/she knows more technically than the IT specialist and imposes his/her "way" on the project and it could be very counterproductive and it can work the other way around. Further, in the corporate world, the projects are only viewed as being a business project at the initiation stage and thereafter they turn IT projects since it’s the IT function that is left to do or spearhead the remaining 75% - 90% of the project work. Therefore, the silo mindset will cause problems as the following:
- IT and business do not share at least 75% of understanding on projects (called IT projects, but changing the way business works) 
- Such misunderstanding leads to ineffective, 'not the best' decisions within projects 
- Consequentially, things got so bad that officially the projects fail 

The high mature organizations have a culture of team collaboration: And most likely incentive programs that reward collaborative behavior in the high-performance organizations. Rather than continuing with the "point the finger" culture, intelligent companies should put the capabilities of both IT and Business personnel to work on making IT projects succeed. Without the negative culture, the more IT projects would succeed and companies would be much nicer places to work in. The cross-functional teams are given the opportunity to work together, not only learning from each other and tackling the issues together but striving for the same business goal and achieve high expectations.

IT project is a business project: The entire notion of an initiative as "an IT project" can doom an initiative all by itself. Once the project switches from being a business-oriented to IT-oriented, that is the start of its fall. When the project fails, look beyond the symptom. A lot of dysfunction in how projects get vetted and funded that ultimately impairs their potential to produce value for the organization. Hence, from the top, there is no such thing as an IT project. There are business projects. There is capital to compete for and areas to improve to deliver on desired strategy and outcomes that are to provide for that vision. Once the segregation of "IT Project" and "Business Project" occurred, the eventual failure rate was a logical and predictable high. The moment IT function is viewed as being one of the major stakeholders in the business and project implementation team being all-inclusive, that is the moment project failures will be reduced, and in any case, of a failure, all business functions will own-up and in case a mitigating measures will long be found before the actual failure. 

Entrepreneurial to purposeful digital transformation: When organizations mature, a key transformation must take place, often called the ‘E to P’ transformation or ‘Entrepreneurial to Purposeful’ transformation. When highly driven, highly initiative driven roles are replaced by a ‘value chain.’ The value chain is staffed by people that can do their jobs really well and much better and cheaper than perhaps an Entrepreneur because of training and experience in those roles. Successful projects are about creating really good value chains, getting the right people in the right positions, at the right times. When business departments complain that the IT department doesn’t understand, this demonstrates that the value chain is broken, often correctly skill roles are missing from the value chain or are being performed without recognition that there is indeed a failure. To manage a successful project, make sure the skills mix in the value chain is right. And, it’s more about psychological knowledge rather than technology or business knowledge. What is needed are lots more impartial and independent hybrids who can help businesses define a robust and rigorous set of needs, work with technologists to deliver the solution and with both parties to ensure the desired outcome happens.

With emerging digital opportunities and risks, business leaders (including IT leaders) are once again seeing the benefit of the IT strategy being fully part of the enterprise strategy. IT as a business inside the business, that's the way to go. So, when IT reduces the cost of doing business, it increases the margin. IT strives to be a revenue contributor to the business. It is the time for business and IT to take each other more seriously, and ideally, integrate as a whole, with the ambidextrous talent to achieve common goals and deliver the high-performance business result.


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