Monday, August 22, 2016

Three Principles to Follow for Bridging IT-Business Gaps

Many of gaps bridging challenges in the organization are not exclusive to IT yet the symptoms are often more visible in IT.

Technology is permeating into every corner of the organization, and the information is the lifeblood of the business. However, many IT organizations still get stuck in the lower level of maturity, with the reputation as a cost center, support desk, controller only, or even the bottleneck to slow the business speed. So how can IT leaders reimagine IT potential, reinvent IT brand, overcome culture inertia, and numerous digital barriers to bridge the gaps between IT and business, and run a frictionless IT to achieve the high level business result?

IT is business, IT strategy is an integral component of the business strategy: In many organizations, business leaders still think IT only supports strategy, and there are huge gaps existing between IT and business. In almost every business environment, IT is an enabler or a tool that needs to be used efficiently and treated as an asset like any other capital investment specified and used accordingly. One of the most crucial leadership ingredients for bridging the gaps is to build trust via communication and delegation. The trust between IT and business will enable the business to self-service and do more with the technology, so IT can spend more resources on innovation and come up with even better, more relevant solutions for the business. Trust means how to strike the right balance upon what IT can give up control, and what IT needs to control: IT can give users more options to meet the requirement for doing their work efficiently, but IT shouldn't give up control of d risk management, as well as building up strong long-term relationship with partners to gain purchasing power and dedicated supports. It’s about finding the right balance in order for IT and business integrated as strategic partners. Repeatable success comes when IT and business act from 'IT vs. business' to a true partnership. With emerging digital opportunities and risks, business leaders (including IT leaders) are once again seeing the benefit of the IT strategy being fully part of the enterprise strategy. IT as a business inside the business, that's the way to go for closing gaps and running a high-performing business with accelerating speed.

Closing the gap and building the 'right' bridge between IT and business is about doing the basics right: Getting the basics right starts with a collaborative attitude towards perhaps the most important step: Understand what you and your team are required to do to deliver the strategy. Ultimately you'd want to recognize that what most businesses need is an IT enabled business capability, not "just" an IT department. Every IT initiative is a business project, to either for adding business value, or improving customer satisfaction. When IT only measures the results of their department from the technology lens, or when the businesses do not have the interest to understand IT further, and won’t invite IT leaders to co-create strategy, the gaps are enlarged. A good starting point to bridge the gap would be to fully understand what the business requirement is, this is a key starting point for IT and making IT a profit center as the business is almost always skewed towards ‘financial’ goal of a balanced scorecard. Getting the basics right means you need to run an effective IT - for doing the right things, with efficiency (for doing things right), also improve its agility to adapt to the rapidly increasing business dynamic, and flexibility with alternative ways to do things better, faster, and cheaper.   

Everyone should be pulling in the right direction: The organizational progress and harmony often get hampered by the business and IT’s “He said, she said,” scenario, which is often caused by miscommunication, silo thinking, and inefficient business processes for cross-functional collaboration. It is not a problem exclusive to IT, it exists between different departments in a company and needs a holistic approach to solve. The bottom line is, for any company to succeed, it is essential for the entire company to be pulling in the right direction, including IT. First, CXOs (including the CIO) must agree on the business goals and then set up metrics and incentives based on meeting those goals for every individual in the company, including the IT folks. If everyone understands the part they play in achieving the company goals, to ensure the organization as a whole is superior to the sum of pieces; and they are provided the right kind of incentives, people will do the right things and metrics/checkpoints can ensure proper management of this. Hence, Strategic and Systems thinking, prioritization and adaptability are also crucial factors in leading business progressions.

In most organizations, many of these gaps bridging challenges are not exclusive to IT yet the symptoms are often more visible in IT due to the fact that IT work touches, serves, and supports virtually every aspect of the enterprise. These challenges are not easily solved and can not be addressed through the tactical  management approach. These are also leadership and cultural challenges. They can only be solved by strong "C" level leaders who understand these challenges and work to build a digital-ready organizational culture and structure to eliminate barriers and mind gaps. By following the principles discussed above, IT can overcome barriers on the way to becoming true business partners and drive digital transformation seamlessly.


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