Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Is IT Leadership like Bicycling: All About Balance

The pervasive digitalization or IT consumerism require the balance of the “old experience” and the “new way to do things.”

Many IT organizations are on the way to the digital paradigm shift, from running a maintenance center for keeping the business light on to reinvent IT as an innovation engine and value creator. There is a mixed bag of legacy technologies and emergent digital tools and apps to run an IT organization today. Therefore, IT leaders need to bridge the chasm between “the old’ way to do things and the new way to think and prioritize how to run a high-performing IT, as well as how to measure IT value via the business perspective. Is today’s IT leadership just like bicycling, all about balance?

IT has to strike the right balance between supporting business and leading changes: Often there is a huge gap between IT-Business mutual understanding and trust. On one side, most of the business managers still perceive IT organizations as support functions only, not inviting IT to brainstorm strategy; and IT leaders also say that they can't put together a strategic plan because the business doesn't have one. You need to see this as an opportunity - not a roadblock. So while the other areas of the business need to change, IT should ask itself how it can influence - and help them do that. After all, business and IT are all on the same team to ensure the organization as a whole can achieve an optimal business result for long-term growth. Due to abundant information and more mature digital technologies, IT is actually in a unique position to grasp business opportunities, also predict risks for businesses growth and expansion. Thus, it needs to put more focus on innovation and standardize the applications and devices customers use to keep support cost down and manage risks effectively.

From IT organizational structure perspective, it needs to balance of the centralized IT vs. decentralized IT organization: What's the best organizational structure to run an effective IT or a digital organization under the cloud? As the border of functional silos is blurred and creating meaningful differentiation requires capabilities that are almost always cross-functional. The same concerns can be lifted for other functions as well. Often, centralized or decentralized IT capabilities are the perpetual dilemma as paradoxically, centralizing and standardizing what makes sense enables flexibility without chaos.  And a centralized IT also has the advantage in purchasing power when negotiating with vendors, practicing governance discipline and sharing best practices with speed. The speed of change is creating a solutions environment that is more specialized and complex, thus more expensive to successfully manage. And the certain level of decentralization enables IT to get in-depth understanding businesses and deliver tailored business solutions, not just IT services. A hybrid approach to deliver IT capabilities may work best to fit most of IT organizations. And it’s not a black or white decision. It always depends on several factors like firm’s culture, strategy, IT budget, IT maturity and so on. It relates much to who makes IT decisions and If done right, that you can get the best of both worlds is the best approach.

From IT management perspective, the balance of DevOp -Agile vs. Waterfall helps to run a project portfolio with continuous delivery: Agile is more as a management philosophy, a set of principles and a proven methodology to manage projects and run IT. DevOps brings in a cultural shift to an organization to not only develop but also to maintain the application with continuous changes in place. Devops as a natural consequence of applying agile thinking not only to development but to the whole lifecycle of a service that has IT-components as central assets. Many established IT organization also accumulate enriched experience to using Waterfall as a management practice for years. Thus, suitability is important to select the right methods in managing project portfolio effectively. There are multiple approaches, frameworks available to help teams identify the agile suitability for particular projects. Organizations can use "all agile some of the time" and "some agile all of the time" on projects delivery journey to ensure the project success and customer satisfaction.

The technique for riding a bicycle is to look forward, keep your body balanced and steer in the right direction. So does today’s IT leadership. We have more computing power, greater connectivity, more data, greater potential empowerment of the worker, etc. But more of something isn't always necessarily good, the management challenge is to BALANCE them well. The pervasive digitalization or IT consumerism require the balance of the “old experience” and the “new way to do things,” the “learning and doing.” Whether one believes that the current experience is a transformation or just an extension of the past, what are the things that you can do as IT and non-IT leaders to leverage the experiences of the past, and what are some new lessons for you to consider through applying digital technologies? The ultimate goal is to build a high-performing, high-innovative and customer-centric IT organization.


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