Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Practicing Intrapreneurship in Running Enterprise IT

Practicing intrapreneurship starts with tuning the digital mindset of IT leaders and professionals.

IT organizations play a critical role in the organization’s digital transformation. Many forward-looking IT organizations have built a partnership with startup companies to accelerate changes and deliver innovative and cost-effective business solutions. And high-performing enterprise IT organizations also leverage the startup culture for catalyzing changes and improving IT agility. But more specifically, how to practice intrapreneurship in running an enterprise IT organization?

Speed Up: IT is often perceived to be too slow to adapt to the changes in the majority of large enterprise organizations. To practice intrapreneurship, it means IT has to adapt to changes in proactive ways, and more often, IT has to drive the changes and plays a pivotal role in digital transformation, focus on the fastest speed available - because that is where the main threat to competitiveness. It is about running IT as a business enabler, technology enablement is always about planning, funding, designing, building, operating, securing, optimizing and maturing. Practicing intrapreneurship means to run IT as a business because of digital IT shift from hardware and technology-heavy to data and information savvy; from a maintenance center to a customer-centric value creator. It is time to run IT as a software startup to increase speed.

Strike the right balance: In the 20th century, entrepreneurs and professional managers act more like different breeds of leaders: entrepreneurs think out of box, professional managers set up and manage within the box; entrepreneurs break the rules, professional managers make the policies and play the politics, entrepreneurs dream big to make the dent in the universe, and professional managers keep focusing on winning finance results; entrepreneurs present resilience; professional managers manage elasticity; actually, in order to embrace and adapt to today’s digital dynamic with paradoxical nature, such two set of leadership characteristics are not exclusive, but complement with each other more seamlessly. Practicing intrapreneurship in large enterprises needs to strike the right balance between stability and agility, process and creativity. Running an innovative IT doesn't mean IT will go “wild,” or "rogue"; it also doesn't mean IT should get rid of all those processes or IT framework hassles. In fact, creativity and process have to go hand in hand; without process there is chaos and from the chaos, it’s hard to be creative. Intrapreneur-CIOs will add a new dimension of vision in making the right choice for balancing the business’s short-term gain and long-term win.

Build innovative partnerships: Enterprise IT can rejuvenate itself via building partnerships with innovative vendors or technology startups. Businesses are looking for “absorptive capacity,” and Innovation agility from their IT service providers. The innovation capabilities IT vendors can provide to their clients are to connect the dots. Those IT vendors work with their clients across industries, across cultures, accumulate many success stories and, even failure anecdotes to benefit their clients, for adopting the best solutions and avoid pitfalls, modernizing legacy applications via borrowing the fresh idea from a totally different industry or culture. The business is expecting IT to figure out ways to perform the IT lifecycle, whether they are doing hardware or software or a combined integration, with less drain on their organization, they also expect vendors to deliver flexible, innovative and high-quality customer-tailored solutions. There are a number of business areas that can be transformed by a systematic yet sensitive approach to customer feedback. Also, it is necessary to understand that no department will suffer from being challenged too often.

Cultivate the culture of risk tolerance with flexibility: Practising intrapreneurship also means enterprise IT should go smarter and flexible, with the culture of risk awareness and tolerance. Good intrapreneur-leaders explain the big “whys” clearly, to articulate the strategic rationale behind the venture, as more often than not, intrapreneurship is about discovering the new path for digital transformation and balancing innovation with other organizational priorities, it presents a possibly even greater challenge--and reward. Many entrepreneurs taste risk as bitter experience and show resilience to recover, some say, failure + quantity =  success, intrapreneur leaders often have balanced viewpoints to perceive success and failure objectively, such mental toughness will help an organization become more resilient, and nurture the culture of risk tolerance. Such flexibility can broaden the “innovation scope” of IT:
-A new result (new satisfied need of a customer –“need” solution);
-A new method of gaining the same result (“principle” solution);
-A new technology the same method is based on (“scientific” solution)

Creative leadership: Last but not least, creative leadership is a crucial factor in practicing intrapreneurship in large enterprises. Creative leadership is the unique combination of "out-of-the-box" mentality and leadership behaviors that develop and achieves high quality and meaningful results over a sustained period of time. The heart of entrepreneurship is about changes, and organizations no matter large or small, all face the unprecedented change, uncertainty, and accelerated business dynamic, intrapreneur IT leaders are not only self-motivated, but also motivate teams to cultivate change capabilities, encourage subordinates to think out of the box and bring back new designs that they might not even recognize using the current context, but, when they examine them in the new context they may be a key element for building the new paradigms and contexts to improve IT agility. Creative leadership can be described as "Adaptability meets Agility.”

There are a set of principles and practices to run a high-effective and high-innovative IT organization. Practicing intrapreneurship starts from tuning the digital mindset of IT leaders and professionals, cultivates the culture of learning and innovation, builds robust, not rigid processes to do the work, develops innovative partnerships and intimate customer relationships, and leverages flexibility in running IT as a business like a startup.


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