Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Five Aspects in Closing IT Gaps

IT can be an integral part of the business, by identifying the blind spots and close the gaps.

Organizations large and small are on the journey of digital transformation. The overly rigid business hierarchy with command-and-control management style came through the industrial revolution with the perspective that everything, including organizations, can be viewed as mechanical in nature. In the "Birth of the Chaotic Age" with explosive information abundance and the dawn of digitalization, it makes a very strong case that command-and-control organizations with bureaucratic culture are inherently incapable of handling, processing, managing the sheer volume of information we are faced with. IT as the information steward of the business, how to close the gaps, and help to build a hyper-connected and highly innovative digital organization?

Be aware of blind spots: “Blind Spot” is due to a lack of sufficient resources or silo thinking. The senior leader should have the ability to see the big picture, to complement the team’s viewpoint. Most teams operate with an incomplete and relatively small view of the world. IT often gets criticized because it does not deliver value to the business and its focus is not on the business where it should be. Many companies are trying to do more with less. Unfortunately, the IT department seems to be one of the first teams to be impacted by any budget cuts, and many IT organizations get stuck at the lower level of maturity as an order taker. This results in a team that has to spend all their time to “keep the light on” rather than focusing on developing STRATEGIES that advance the business and give them a competitive edge in the marketplace. If IT departments are going to move up the maturity curve, they have to be aware of the variety of blind spot (either in performance management or talent management, etc.) They must alleviate themselves of the mundane, daily tasks that weigh them down. High performance cannot be achieved unless the IT department improves their act and must engage the business, not the geek in the tech tower. IT must engage the business more to avoid blind spots and bridge the gaps.

Outside - in customer viewpoint: The majority of IT organizations are pushing inside out, which could create the gaps between what the customer needs and what IT really delivers. When looking at the customer experience from the inside out, there is nothing wrong with that, because you are the ones that can change the inside. However, the outside-in view is more important, because the customer's experience is about how they encounter, observe, or undergo a company's events or stages. You layout a journey that is helpful, positive, and sharing experience with customers. They may not like, appreciate, or really care about the journey, or simply may not go through the journey in the "correct" way. If the sequence of events is based on "outside-in" data, and the end result is to transform the company or organization to increase its customer-centric maturity and build a culture to focus on creating value for their customers, then you can call it a sequence of experiences or simply a strategic plan which helps to mind the gaps and build a customer-centric IT organization.

Cognitive difference: IT talent capability/skill gaps are fact, not fiction. to bridge the gaps, it starts from the mindset. IT needs both agile generalists with business acumen and dedicated specialists with technical excellence. It's about both aptitude and attitude. It’s best to bring a group of people together with the cognitive difference such as different backgrounds, capabilities, strengths, etc. together in order to obtain such a way of divergent thinking for sparking innovation, convergent thinking for common understanding, and solving complex IT problems with flexibility. It will better go more convergent to really hone in on the "why." Once you figure out what the true problems are and ready to ideate that needs to be divergent thinking. Finally, when down-selecting ideas and eventually prototyping that would be more convergent thinking. Innovation. So, to a certain degree, the process to transform a novel idea to the business value, is a combination of divergent and convergent thinking, the systematic and synthetic processes. It all comes through bridging the cognitive difference and managing innovation in a structured way.

Change readiness: Most of the organizations today are the “sum of functions,” not yet being a cohesive whole. To close the gaps and optimize operational excellence, Change Management becomes an ongoing business continuum. Change readiness can be determined via a validated instrument, the change profile-scan. Too many organizations are mechanistic, control, and command hierarchies. If your organization fits the description, get out fast, or initiate change within. It's not the change that needs management. It's management that has to change its paternalistic view and give space to what the professionals they hired for the works. Companies don't think about change. People in companies do, from different positions. Mostly the management wants to see a different (better) result of all combined efforts. So dynamic and changing organizations cannot operate with stable unchanging people. Most people are quite willing to put the effort in to change. What they don't want is 'to be changed by others.' So let them be part of the direction, speed, and way you are heading.

Contextual understanding: The business system is complex and the organization is contextual, without contextual understanding about people, process, and technology, the blind spots and gaps are inevitable. Context aids us in understanding what’s relevant and what’s not. From a practical perspective, 'seeing' the context you are 'part' of, allows one to identify the leverage points of the system and then 'choose' the 'decisive' factors, in the attempt to achieve the set purpose. Context needs to be split into two dimensions in terms of understanding the scope - functional and physical, and a third aspect (to assist planning. risk assessment, etc.) is to understand the environment in which the "something" will be developed and then operate. Hence, to manage a high-performing IT organization or the business as a whole, IT leaders and managers need to have a contextual understanding about the interconnectivity of the business success factors underlining the surface and focus on building cohesive business capabilities in which IT as a key enabler.

At a lower maturity level, IT is aligned to support the business with a lot of gaps in between. However, when moving up to the next level of the maturity, IT can be an integral part of the business, by identifying the blind spots and close the gaps, IT can become the game-changer and innovation driver to bring the new opportunity for business growth; nonetheless, that enablement and its effectiveness can be measured and value attributed which the business recognizes and endorses. IT is the business.


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