Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Is IT an Enabler or an Obstacle to Get Things Done in Organizations

IT leaders must know how to promote their organizations by "selling the right things right."

In many organizations, IT has been perceived as a controller, a cost center, or even an obstacle to getting things done in the business. What’s the reality of your IT organization? How do you get the non-IT stakeholders to recognize and support the notion that IT and Business are not separate or independent departments? How do you get all stakeholders (IT and non-IT) to encourage the notion that IT and business need to work together to be successful? How do you get non-IT stakeholders to focus on collaboration, transparency, respect, and providing clear leadership?

Having a collaborative understanding of business goals & planning: Having a collaborative understanding environment is essential. The issue being raised regarding obstacles is that IT is viewed as an inhibitor, rather than an enabler/driver of change. Too often IT is not involved at a goal level but instead at a task level. This creates an environment where the IT folks focus less on the objective and more on the rules and processes that are defined for their department. So, instead of working to find solutions they sometimes view their responsibility to evaluate risks solely from a risk perspective. IT and the business need to work together in the planning process. This is becoming ever more important since IT is indeed becoming more and more like a business in most sectors. In order to develop sound plans, plenty of IT and process expertise needs to be involved, to ensure that the IT organizational leadership is involved in setting the business strategy and goals of the company. Then work to build, support and reward an environment that recognizes diversity and inclusion (cross-functional brainstorming and collaboration) for success. Break down old school silos of thought, IT and Business are not separate departments. IT does not run the show and should not hold up the business and business does not own the goals and own the solution. The company, every department needs to work together to be successful. Collaboration, transparency, respect and clear leadership are the keys to breaking down the realities and the perceptions of this issue.

Decomplexitizng the processes: There is a combination of factors at work which indeed link closely to the issues around business-IT enablement. Too often IT is usually involved too late in the decision-making process. This results in a dynamic where the business develops enthusiastically nice and shiny plans and goals and IT then has to explain why this cannot be developed and fit into the existing architecture at a reasonable investment. Often the business then turns to external IT suppliers who always tell them they can deliver in a cheap and timely fashion, not being constrained by governance or architecture-related issues. This reinforces the perception that the internal IT department cannot deliver.  The process of changing a good business idea into an effective IT solution has become awfully complex and messy in many larger organizations. You cannot deliver value without "de-complexitizing" and make transparent what is being delivered and how or what is being delivered. Unless there are collaborative and understanding environments, the perception is that IT is raising roadblocks. As part of and in concert with the top management team, IT leadership needs to sort through the issues, develop rationalizations and achieve mutually acceptable solutions that are then communicated up, down and across the enterprise. Simplifying such processes using agile principles and just common sense helps a great deal in improving predictability, which makes it easier to manage expectations. Just putting IT and the business physically in the same room can often already help a great deal and enhances business understanding of IT.

Leadership and culture: In many cases, the business still has the view of IT as a service desk, not as a business partner. This results in that the business usually blames IT for not delivering without understanding and accepting their own role in the failure. IT becomes an easy excuse for being too late and above budget. Leadership that understands both business and IT and focuses on shared responsibility for effective delivery of IT solutions is usually needed to break through such behavior. IT leaders must know how to promote their organization by "selling the right things right," to have the seat at the big table to envision the radical digital transformation IT can catalyze and the culture of innovation IT shall enable. It includes the organization/people, technology, and processes that are in place; anything less would be a misnomer or at the very least relinquishing responsibilities. If the focus is on operations and controlling only, it is no wonder non-IT executives consider IT as an obstacle.
- IT can enable and DRIVE the enterprise, as it should act as an equal partner.
- Not only should IT understand the business, but the non-IT organizations need to understand IT.
- The focus needs to be more on TVO (Total Value of Ownership) than the TCO, PMO, etc.

IT cannot be seen as an enabler unless IT management clearly understands what their organization does for a living. IT should be integral to and knowledgeable of the business, aligned with enterprise objectives, an enabler and a facilitator.....and of course, fully competent to provide on-going support and tactical execution. That is not an easy task but it is not impossible either. While it is essential to have IT represent their values as part of entire organization's objectives, it is, even more important to have IT and non-IT organizations collaborate on creating the organization's vision, strategy, objectives, mission, plans…


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