Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Five Pitfalls to Fail IT

IT and business need to be an integral whole - IT can fail business just like the business can fail IT.

IT plays a more significant role in leading changes and driving innovation in the organization than ever because  information is pervasive, permeating into everywhere in a contemporary business, and the speed of change is increasing nowadays. IT is also a critical element in improving business agility to adapt to changes. However, it doesn’t mean it's an easy job to run a high-performing IT organization. What are the pitfalls to fail IT, and how to overcome them in running a high mature digital IT?

Over-promise, and under deliver: IT project priority is critical for many organizations, because most of IT organizations are still at the lower level of maturity, being perceived as a cost center, slow response to business’s request, spend most of the resources on “keeping the light on.” IT is still a department usually under-budget, overloaded with the projects assignment, and with a reputation on over-promise and under-delivery. Many IT leaders cite mistakes in managing the demand pipeline, either by not setting the right priorities well with the business units or just taking on too much and crushing their team. The major contributing factors to IT overloading are “ineffective leadership,”  "insufficient resources," “de-motivated teams,” and the classic “can’t say no.” Many times, IT leaders don’t have a seat at the big table to create the strategy or functional executives hold silo thinking and unhealthily compete for limited resources. Thus, they can’t prioritize and assign limited resources wisely; or work collaboratively to plan, manage, govern and measure projects effectively.

Fail to engage users in IT transformation: Engaging and empowering your end user is vital. Particularly as business has become more tech-savvy, and as such, aware of their power to demand what they want, when and how they want it. Collaborate with customers and partners, as they are what makes or breaks a successful IT. IT needs to invent itself in a very entrepreneur fashion. With the startup world growing as fast as they are, the disruption of IT will continue. How to re-imagine customer-centricity by going through the change and IT transformation? It is the smart business leader who takes control of business strategy and leverages IT tools and technologies to meet targets incorporated in an integral digital strategy with customer-centricity.

“Lost in translation” symptom: The disconnect between the business and IT is still one of the root causes to fail IT and business as well. The mistake that most organizations make in business communication is to fail to translate the high-level language of strategy into the professional language of the various staff specialty. Strategy communication has to be customized from general management background to technical background employees. Ultimately a strategy has to end up expressed in people's job descriptions and workloads. Engineers have engineering language, marketers have marketing language, etc. But the highly effective business leaders and strategists are business “multi-linguist” who can master at different business dialects and convey the right message to tailor different audiences.

High IT project failure rate: IT project failure can damage business overall capability and even brand reputation to serve end customers for the long term. Project failure is due to poor  management, unnecessary complexity, and lack of business buy-in and participation. The root causes of failure can be broken down into the culture, politics, expertise, policy and technology categories. More specifically,  IT project fail because 1) Project management by IT is weak 2) IT project are generally system projects; they cover multiple elements, the main problem is that IT effort is to get the individual elements to work but never to get the different elements to work well together 3). IT project focuses on efficiency and not effectiveness.

Lack of effective IT leadership: Business transformation needs to start at and be led by the top of the organization. What needs to change and why? CIOs need to capture the full picture, the holistic business insight, rather than IT picture only. They should educate other business functions with data that business as whole is superior to the sum of pieces. CIOs can also provide valuable insight in the form of money saved, revenue from new unexplored business idea etc., at the same time, CIO should collect feedback from the business upon how to improve IT services and satisfy customers. They can deliver ‘competitive capabilities” to business as many businesses will plateau without IT, so there is a co-dependency that should be recognized in a mature - respectful manner that facilitates the strategic goals and objectives of the enterprise. Leaders must clearly articulate that message to their organization so managers and employees can actually execute it. Most successful CIOs have a good balance of understanding technology and business. It doesn’t so matter where the CIO comes from as long as he or she understands the mission: to drive the business growth and improve IT maturity.

IT is the key component in building up differentiated business capabilities nowadays. To avoid these potential pitfalls, IT needs to attribute business value to its company in building close companionship with the business peers, customers, and partners, advance high effective IT leadership, also in developing multi-dimensional views of KPIs that show how IT is improving business and enforcing business competency for long-term prosperity.


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