Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Two Sides of IT: Which Side is More Important?

IT leaders need to get both sides of IT right and communicate the value and potential of their organization.

The forward-looking IT organizations are on the journey of digital transformation. The challenge is having a harmonized vision about overall IT capabilities and maturities, and which role IT should, or can play in the digital organization. There are the front end and back end of the IT department. The front end of IT is value-added, to drive the business’s digital transformation, and the back end of the IT is fundamental, operational driven and keep the lights on. From IT management and digital transformation perspective, how to run two sides of IT smoothly, via setting the right principles and developing the next practices?

The front end of IT is outside-in, customer-centric, and innovative: The front end of IT is the portion that helps with the business growth, provide customer-centric solutions, it’s about how IT can bring back the "scientific" discipline and continuous effort that people used to trust. The customer often taps their own IT organizations for their thoughts, for their innovation, when they match up, customers go for it. IT strategy as an integral component of the business strategy is crucial to diagnose root causes of problems, set guidelines, build a framework of innovation and generation of products and services of the organization to attract and keep customers. IT enables business innovation to create a value proposition that would move your prospects to become your clients; more importantly, to improve customer retention. CIOs have to be an integral strategic partner in driving business value. They can do so by embedding technology with strategic management. In order to integrate technology with strategy, Information executives have to be fully aligned with the business executives in articulating the business strategy. To run the front end of IT well, CIOs need to establish and communicate the forward-looking vision - strategies setting the stage for business success and IT funding to achieve; match the demands of the business and customer; make processes, procedures, people, and structure to execute the strategy and apply the technology to ensure achievement and execution.

The back end of IT is fundamental to improve business efficiency: The front end of IT is value-added but does not ignore the back end of IT because it directly impacts the business's survival and stability, it's fundamental. The back end is the part that acts like accounting and HR, a business model support function. The trick is how to invest resources, time, and money wisely to run both sides seamlessly. Most business executives have no idea how complicated corporate technology is. They don’t have to understand how complex IT system is. Though the backside seems to make IT invisible and humble, it also reflects the density, intensity, and intelligence of technology. The optimal way for IT/Technology to help win new business is to make most of IT/technology "invisible" to the customer. In other words, hide the complexity of IT/technology infrastructure and operations. What is left visible to the customer should be simple, intuitive, secure, reliable, and predictable. Hence, the back end of IT is not less important but crucial for improving IT maturity by focusing on consolidation, standardization, integration, and optimization, etc.

IT leaders need to get both sides of IT right and communicate the value and potential of their organization. There should also be a strong interaction between Operations leaders and IT leaders and their teams with feedback mechanisms and willingness to find solutions that can support both the business need and build any ROI required to justify the business case. IT should be integral to and knowledgeable of the business, aligned to enterprise objectives, as an enabler, facilitator, and game-changer.


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