Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Daily Grinding of IT

The daily grinding of IT is to focus on improving operational excellence, customer satisfaction, and doing more with innovation.

Today’s IT organization plays a significant role in the journey of digital transformation, IT needs to be strategic, innovative, forward-thinking, agile, flexible, speedy, and customer-centric. However, every journey starts with the first step, the long-term perspectives come with daily grinding. Thinking big, and start small. How can IT leaders manage IT with daily best practices, to not just fixing the symptoms, but building its capabilities and make continuous delivery to achieve the strategic goals and fulfilling the business vision?

IT daily grinding needs to focus on improving operational excellence and customer satisfaction: “Keep the lights on” is still fundamental to run an efficient IT organization, IT’s daily grinding is important to continue optimizing business processes and managing IT cost. Every part of the company should do what it can to gain results while spending the least cost necessary, buy what you need, use it to the fullest, and running IT as a business, to ensure all resources, human capital and budget are optimized in the best manner possible. The operational dimension of digitizing IT is to create a frictionless channel for resources to flow from the top line to the bottom line. Often, IT suffers from overload, lack of resource, and talent shortage, and managing IT delivery including supporting process development projects in other parts of the company and sometimes no time left selling the idea about investing in their own processes. As daily practices, IT needs to be proactively planning, not justing taking the order, but working closely with internal customers to improve overall business operation from a holistic business perspective. IT shouldn’t always look at itself from inside out via IT lense, but via outside-in customer viewpoint, to ensure the daily task helps the business build the competency for delighting both internal and external customers and improving the business agility and maturity.

Prioritization is also important for IT to take daily practices and improve information management effectiveness: There are too many things in the daily agenda of IT.  Many IT leaders cite mistakes in managing the demand for IT services or support, 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,” mentality. Doing daily grinding doesn’t mean IT should ignore its role refining. Indeed, continually refining its role as a strategic business partner and digital engine via effective communication and cross-functional collaboration needs to be the daily grinding practice for IT as well. Without effective communication and prioritization skills, the business often doesn't understand how IT can help, and IT doesn't know what the business needs. The business thinks they know what they need, or the IT department thinks they know what the business need. And then the gaps between IT and business are enlarged and IT perhaps just keeps “busyness,” without solving real issues in the days, monthly, or even yearly. Being customer-centric also doesn’t mean saying YES to every request from internal users. What the business really needs is an IT group that can say no with good reasons, and offer alternative solutions that meet the goals with prioritization skills to improve overall business capabilities.

“Doing more with innovation” should become the daily mantra for IT as well: Innovation is not serendipitous, it takes daily practices to make IT “innovation fluent.” However, people often get trapped in "That's the way we've always done it mentality," and that slows progress. This is particularly damaging IT reputation due to the changing nature of technology and the abundance of information in the Digital Era. In addition, many leaders who have been with the same organizations and grew from IT ranks for decades, lack of “out of box” thinking skills to become authentic change agents and catalyze innovation. To flex their innovation muscles, they need to enforce daily practices, either exploring the new way of solving the old problems or learning from other innovative souls, other industries, or companies continuously. Innovative CIOs need to work closely with the business partners, take thorny business problems, collect feedbacks, discover optimal solutions for them, simplify operations and be better partners with the rest of the organizations, even help tone the "DNA" of the company to build a creative workplace. They should also develop strategies and practices to manage innovation in a systematic way via fine-tuning both idea creation and idea management scenarios, increase value propositions, and run a highly innovative IT organization.

Uncertainty and ambiguity are key challenges for business leaders today. The daily grinding of IT means the good balance of long-term perspectives and short-term goals for the business. In the past, many business leaders believed their organizations’ long-term goals could wait until they had dealt with the current crisis. In the current business environment, this is no longer the case, the rate of change is increasing, it implies that business leaders must learn how to strike a balance between managing complex issues today and predicting the uncertain issues of tomorrow. IT should focus on doing things matter today for its customers and business, also lift the vision on the horizon, not just keep hands busy, but keep IT flow, to be a digital brain of the business, think harder and work smarter, to improve business maturity and accelerate the business’s digital transformation.


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