Thursday, October 6, 2016

"CIO Master" Book Tuning #113: Strengthen IT to Get Digital Ready

IT has to strengthen itself to get digital ready via increasing agility, innovation, speed, and maturity.

Every forward thinking organization has the digital ambition to become a customer-centric, living, high-effective and high-intelligent organization. Digital organizations are hyperconnected and interdependent and they have to continue to adapt to the digital new normal with “VUCA” characteristics. IT plays a pivotal role in the organization’s digital transformation, but first things first, IT has to strengthen itself to get digital ready via increasing agility, innovation, speed, and maturity.

Hybridizing IT to strike the balance of stability and growth: In order to make a solid digital transformation, there are a lot of seemly paradoxical, but indeed coherent elements in running a high-effective IT today. Being hybrid means to take "BALANCE" as a management philosophy. For example, stability and agility; standardization and innovation, management and governance, centralizing and decentralizing IT, leading from the front and running a back office IT, etc.  Each business function brings a unique perspective and set of skills to the table. Because IT is in a unique position to have an oversight view of enterprise processes. There are times when IT will be the only party in the room with one or all of these views. So IT needs to use such knowledge and experience to identify, sell, and pilot new processes and platforms that can give business leverage in its domain and sector. Strengthening IT to get digital ready means every IT organization should assess its own ability to deliver business solutions in the most effective and efficient way. For instance, centralized or decentralized IT capabilities are the perpetual dilemma as paradoxically, centralizing and standardizing what makes sense enables flexibility without chaos. More often than not, IT needs to have the right mix of centralized and decentralized IT services as per business requirements. Hybridizing IT also means IT needs to balance both “We always do things like this” best practices and developing the next practices to explore the better way to do things.

Accelerating IT to adapt to the increasing speed of changes for the digital era: With increasing speed of changes in the digital era, IT must speed up. Running IT on the fast lane also means to speed up the organizational vehicle as well. The business often perceives IT as the part of the company slow to change, the type of speed issues in the traditional IT organization comes from gaps created between IT and the rest of the company. On one side, IT often acts with a controlling mentality; on the other side, there is no initiative from the business to involve IT, and then IT has been perceived as a laggard in their organizations. Due to the unique position to capture the oversight view of the business, IT also plays an important role in building up a digital enterprises which can succeed in combining two distinct but interconnected elements: strategic agility and organizational flexibility, with the combination of an innovative culture that promotes responsiveness and accelerates digital speed throughout the company.

To strengthen IT and become even more valued added, IT needs to rebrand itself as a business innovation hub or transformation center: Business frictions often stifle innovation and decrease organizational efficiency and productivity. IT needs to rethink itself as an innovative and business leading organization composed not only of technical ‘gurus’ but rather of business ‘gurus’ who also happen to be technically proficient. IT is like the “superglue” to integrate business capabilities for harnessing innovation. Innovation and execution should also run in a synchronous way, to thrive in a highly competitive world where product and service life cycles are getting rapidly shortened. Digital technology platforms and tools streamline innovation management. Innovation has three phases: discovery of a problem or new idea, designing a prototype solution and the ultimate delivery of a commercially astute outcome. IT is a crucial factor in all those phases and contributes to an organization's success in idea management and producing digitized products and services. At the enterprise scope, innovation management should focus on building a healthy innovation portfolio to establish business competency. And the best point of view is to see innovation as a system, capable of taking a stepwise approach to scaling up and delivering organization-wide capability in reaping the business benefit for the long term. It is a healthy business life cycle in which IT is a threshold for conducting digital transformation.

While technology provides new frontiers for work systems, Strengthening IT to get digital ready is not an easy task. The challenge is having a harmonized vision about overall IT management philosophy, capabilities, structure, and maturities in a digital organization, and develop the best and next practices in running IT as a business enabler and digital engine, with ultimate goals to bring high-performing business results and long-term prosperity.


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