Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Digital Fit IT: Shall you put your IT on a Diet?

IT needs to transform from a big fat silo to the digital fit brain of a modern organization.

We live in the era of information overload and “data obesity,” IT organizations at the center of such changes, also suffer from the redundant application maintenance and heavy legacy infrastructure, how to build a digital fit IT, shall you put your IT on a diet, and what's the single best method you've seen to reduce technology "bloat" in your company?

IT needs to be the change agent to advocate the culture of innovation: Bring in a culture that doesn't resist change but doesn't encourage change for change’s sake as well. And it has to be a cultural change as what you want is the focus in order to deliver successful programs. IT doesn't fix problems, people do. Complicating technology with more technology makes organizations unwieldy. However, IT more often makes decisions in isolation and has failed to engage their business effectively. With the continuous drive from their senior management team to drive out the cost, they have lost the ability to articulate value and their businesses have neither information nor understanding of the cost of the decisions that IT is making on their behalf.

IT needs to prune “the weed” regularly: The approach is to implement a program that like a gardener would prune the tree and nurture the valuable solutions. Pruning the weeds would face resistance, however, at the end of the day, this was not just an IT decision and rather than let the senior management team beat them up, by understanding and communicating the actual costs, the senior management team could be pointed in other directions as IT is simply delivering the decisions of their business. IT needs to promote its products and market its capabilities. The concept of a service catalog has existed in IT for decades and yes it is hard, but it needs to be embraced today more than ever. IT departments have to sell the benefits of their solutions and not just once but continuously, because people like shiny and new toys, and often forget the capabilities of what they have. The IT department needs to sell itself (perception is fact) and sell the tools that it has. In this day and age when end-user communities can spin up services in the Cloud without IT, they expect to see products and they expect to be sold to. IT has to transform into a solution provider, not just a back-office service provider. Measure, measure, measure. Metrics are important. Start checking the quality. It pays off both in terms of reduced support and faster change. But to borrow the opening, a scale is useful too. IT needs to apply systems thinking and take logical steps:
1) common Architecture and strategy to support transformation efforts, do not reinvent the wheels.
2) investment in fact-based spending transparency and process governance around vendor spend.
3) Transparency and cultural willingness to optimize IT spend, as otherwise any effort to optimize IT costs may result in ballooning what Business Units pay for directly by bringing in expensive IT consultants and Bespoke Software.

IT needs to be the driver for the business's digital transformation: IT needs to build both strategy and practices to transform into a digital transformation. In many IT organizations, they want to transform IT but have no mechanism to articulate the costs or value of these systems. Many IT organizations in legacy organizations or in legacy industries spend significant time, cost and resource to maintain the heavy out of date IT infrastructure and legacy applications. So they have two situations with legacy applications.
a) They are maintaining legacy apps at the most basic level, not carrying out upgrades and systems were decades outside the manufacturer's support, thus increasing business risk and their costs of maintenance.

b) They are maintaining apps that they could have almost certainly removed had they engaged their business effectively and allowed their business to make the decision with the actual knowledge and actual business value determination. To keep digital fit, IT has to set priority right: LIST A: Do a list of what systems you have and their associated hardware and software and what business operations/functions/processes they provide/support. LIST B: Do another list of what your business needs to run and report covering all necessary processes/operations/ functions. Compare the two lists by function. If it's on LIST A but not on LIST B then dump it. It's amazing how many systems and associated hardware/software you will find in large companies and many haven't been used for years. Such exercises will help discover the systems that were created by individuals within the organization and no one in the IT department had any knowledge of these and from which major business decisions were being made on a daily basis.

Keeping “IT Fit” takes both strategy and discipline, but it is worth the effort, and it is a significant step to transform IT from a cost center to value creator; from a controller always saying “NO” to the users to the innovator that brings change to itself as well as business-wide scope, and from a big fat silo to the digital fit brain of modern organization.


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