Saturday, February 18, 2017

Three Aspects of IT Maturity

IT matters not only because it’s pervasive, but more about it also continues to advance, and its nature of the "constructive disruption."

All forward-thinking organizations are on the journey of digital transformation, and IT plays a critical role in leading changes. Since the biggest challenge to business success is IT; often, IT maturity is proportional to the maturity of the entire company. However, the majority of IT organizations get stuck at the lower or mid-level of maturity, to keep the lights on and running in a reactive mode. So, how to improve IT maturity via achieving its strategic value, speed, innovation, and changeability?

Strategic IT: IT needs to shift from an order taker to the strategic partner of the business in order to help the business building competitive advantage. IT matters because it becomes an integral part and unique characteristics of the business and IT is a key attribute to business capabilities for building a high-performance enterprise. IT is an important building block in crafting business capabilities. Transformation efforts need to be undertaken as the means of getting to a differentiated capability to accomplish a defined goal. Otherwise, they cannot have a clear focus and business rationale that is essential to gaining any traction in changing. A valid strategic objective, and the strategy - IT-enabled business capability mapping allow you to first understand your business goals, your customers and what they value, and then identifies how to best characterize that value through project portfolio management, define key indicators, and then define those measures appropriate to best assess the performance via the business and customers’ viewpoints, not from IT lens. Running a strategic IT also means to cut out waste and shrink the gap between IT and business, so IT can make a significant contribution to the business’s top line growth. IT leadership is also critical to make a strategic shift for IT. A strategic CIO is the digital visionary, creative communicator, and great IT advocator, once the CIO shows his/her organization worth in a way that a non-IT person understands, and keeps on communicating this until the end of times, suddenly IT will be getting opportunities to take part in wider activities, and can truly become a silver lining for the business.

Customized IT: Digital is the age of people. IT role is to enable the business to exceed customer expectations, increase profitability and maintain a competitive advantage. Highly mature IT organizations are moving from “Align IT with the business,” to “Align IT to the Customers;” from standardized IT to the consumerization of IT for personalization; from siloed IT to integral and people-centric IT. It's tricky to find the right mix of open-ended questions to get customers’ feedback you wouldn't have thought about and more precise questions to actually get the customer to think of something they wouldn't have thought about. IT plays a crucial role in optimizing business processes and enhancing customer experience. Use technology to enable integral design and seamless customer experience, rather than use it as a constraint. Clearly, this requires the CIO to understand both the requirements of the business and customers and the capability of IT to enable it. To improve IT maturity, IT needs to change the emphasis to an “outside-in” approach with that vital focus on users and customers.

Innovation and changeability: The very nature of digital is about change and interconnectivity. Hence, in order to lead digital transformation, IT should be run as the change agent and innovation hub of the business. IT needs to turn around the business’s perception of IT as the change laggard to the proactive change agent which can drive the change for the entire organization as well as catalyze the business’s digital transformation. Due to the changing nature of technologies, IT professionals should also be learning agile and keep update about their knowledge and skill set for adapting to changes. When people are comfortable with the changes via shaping a set of digital minds, business processes are robust, not overly rigid, digital technologies are efficient and convenient, and change mechanism is embedded into every aspect of the businesses, the digital transformation will happen naturally. For the “digital masters” - those high mature digital organizations have high level of digital capabilities to out beat competitions and achieve high performance business result, transformation goes a step further and involves internalization of the outside the box thinking and digital conceptual model so that the newly required behaviors don't require the same kind of effort and vigilance. Change is going smoothly and innovativeness becomes the state of mind.

At the highest level, IT needs to become the game changer for the business. IT matters not only because it’s pervasive, but more about it also continues to advance, and its nature of the "constructive disruption." IT should make a comprehensive assessment of its manageability and strength, its differentiated set of capabilities including innovation ability, as well as its overall organizational maturity. IT maturity is not based on how many years IT organizations have been around and keep running to support the business; but about how well IT can provide innovative solutions to meet business needs and delight customers; how adaptive it is to respond to changes, as well as how far it can leap the top line business growth and lead the business's digital transformation. IT needs to become the digital catalyzer and business game changer.


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