Wednesday, June 24, 2015

How to Improve IT Agility, Flexibility, and Overall Manageability

Most of IT organizations have to run the Bi-Modal mode with two-speed: the industrial speed to keep the light on, and the digital speed to innovate and transform.

With the exponential flow of information and accelerating disruption of technology, IT plays more significant role in the organization than ever. However, most of IT organizations get stuck at reactive mode as an order taker, running at a lower level of maturity. From leadership, structure, management perspective, how to improve IT agility, flexibility, and overall IT manageability?

A CIO is not a chief officer unless they are part of the senior leadership team:  If a company doesn't place the CIO as an equal partner at the Sr. Leadership table, it sends the message that they don't recognize technology as strategic assets in achieving their goals, and those companies will likely find it much harder to run a high-performing IT in building a high mature organization. How effective IT depends solely on two major issues: firstly, the company's strategy, and secondly, on the company's culture. If the two issues above are treated on an advanced managerial basis, then the CIO has the seat at the big table, and with the voice to co-create business strategy. This happens when the strategy of the company is based on the fact that information flow is one of the two key resources. Then information management is truly a strategic matter. Secondly, if management has figured out the another key input factor is, people or human resources, and that in order to unlock the various intellectual capital capabilities of these workers, you have to establish an open communication system and a culture of cooperation throughout business units, then this cultural approach supports a CIO who is part of the Executive Committee.

The hybrid of centralized and decentralized IT structure with the goals to improve manageability, agility, and flexibility: There is no "one size (or method) fits all," no right or wrong. There are measurable benefits to centralization. However, it requires a significant foundation. There are always going to be some services which are latency sensitive and unable to be optimized. Before finalizing any organizational layout for an IT function, careful consideration to the capabilities required is first and foremost - what is the role of IT? What Enterprise Apps do you support? All these things and more will drive what capabilities you need. Second, understand the cultural, political and geographic nature of the company you are supporting - a centralized IT function in a highly decentralized company will require a lot more care than a decentralized IT function. Pay attention to how people are managed, budgets are planned and strategy is developed...these will play a significant role in your decision. Third, skill sets. Do you have bright spots in your organization that creates unique opportunities? Finally, consider management style and message. Trying to create a monolithic IT that works as one team? - centralized supports this goal best. Go more decentralized for improving flexibility and business agility. There is no single right answer to this. Centralized, De-centralized and hybrid models can all work given the proper planning and management focus to keep them well-tuned.

Bridge the gap is more and more a question of trust: This trust concept must be backed by Corporate Governance mandates. Everyone must be accountable to a process, audits, activity, and impact on the organization. Delegation is good, but processes and documentation must be in place in order for "trust" to be accountable. Any changes you make will put your organization back into "storming, forming and norming" mode and some shakeout will occur as a result. You should prepare yourself, your organization, and your key stakeholders to adjust to the inevitable rough spots you will create as a by-product of this activity. The higher the degree of change, the more pronounced the adjustment.

There are following three main criteria in any decision - quality, cost, and time: We, unfortunately, don't operate in the world with unlimited quantities of each, and it all boils down to what best supports the needs of the business. The business can typically pick one of the three which will have a direct impact on the other two. If cost is most important, it's highly likely that time and quality will suffer as a byproduct. After that decision is made, everyone else's thoughts on governance, leadership, and accountability come next. The best way is to work with strong rules from the headquarter, centralized model, but with local implementation for these rules, managed by local staff and maybe with shortcuts or local modifications, to achieve efficiency.

Most of IT organizations today have to run bi-modal modes: IT at industrial speed --keeps the light on, and digital IT with faster speed focuses on innovation and continuous improvement. The digital world is so data-driven and so information-intensive, technology needs will only expand, and most likely expand hyperbolically; IT should play even more crucial roles as a service broker, value-creator, digital orchestrator, and governance champion, via improving its agility, flexibility, and overall manageability.


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