Friday, April 7, 2017

The Three Stages of IT Maturity

The highly visible IT can elevate its maturity from “controlling to change to innovate,” from "surviving to striving to thriving," and from "deficiency to efficiency to proficiency."

Nowadays information is abundant and technology is pervasive, Digital transformation or business initiatives today nearly always involves some form of technology implementation or information analysis. IT touches both hard business processes and soft human behaviors, and it plays a crucial role in driving changes and making a leap of the digital transformation. The digital connectivity and IT consumerization bring both challenges and opportunities for IT to shift from a support center to the differentiated business solutionary and move up its maturity level as the trusted business partner.

Running IT from surviving to striving to thriving mode: Though information is growing exponentially and technologies are often the disruptive forces behind the digital transformation. The majority of IT organizations today are still running in the surviving mode, react to the customers’ requests, overloaded and understaffed, struggled to align with the business, and get stuck at the lower level of maturity. Many companies still just treat IT as a backend function that enables them to do day to day tasks and keeps the lights on. In fact, “keeping the lights on” is always fundamental, but to improve IT maturity, the forward-looking CIOs must be able to develop and optimize the IT operational function within itself and scale the best practice to the company scope. Being striving is to try to achieve the optimized result, and make the strenuous effort on IT management effectiveness and operational excellence. It is important to have IT resources (people and operational IT processes)  aligned with the business strategies/objectives for doing the right things; refined to the point that they are nimble, can adapt to changing business demands in a timely fashion, can be reapplied to altering business priorities and be effective with little down curve. To move up further, IT is thriving to grow vigorously, to flourish and become the game changer of the business, because a thriving IT can make true differences and bring the competitive business advantage effortlessly. It is important to take advantage of the IT vantage point to surface ideas proactively, but it is even more important to work with business stakeholders and make sure they work cohesively for managing innovation and discovering the premium solutions to either existing business problems or the emergent challenges. From “surviving to striving to thriving,” IT should not only work harder, but get smarter; not just answer “Yes, or No,” to the customers’ requests, but dig deeper via asking open questions such as “Why not,” “What if,” or “How about,” IT is becoming the strategic business partner for overcoming varying business challenges in better ways.

Running IT from controlling to changing to catalyzing mode: At the traditional IT organizations, IT often acts as the business controller and the business perceives IT as the department lagging behind the changes. IT is constantly in "developing" and "demand managing" mode while business has gone far beyond that. Sometimes IT turns out to be an afterthought: It's too late for a strong technical solution to be implemented in time due to the increasing speed of changes. When this happens it all falls down and it’s an outdated or overly rigid IT system that caused it. To improve its maturity, IT should update its management philosophy from "built to last," to "built to change," ride above the learning curve faster than the rest of the organization and become the change department for driving digital transformation. Digital IT catalyzes information flow and drives business changes proactively. At the age of IT consumerization, businesses need to understand not only the power and the opportunity information could bring in, but also the potential risks they might get exposed to. To run IT as a digital catalyzer and improve its organizational maturity, CIOs need to have business insight, not just through IT lenses, but via global business lenses. IT leaders need to encourage their teams to spend more time with leaders on the business side as well as directly with customers, to improve the top-line business growth by maximizing ROI to add up overall business value in the second dimension.

From deficiency to efficiency to proficiency: It is the paradigm shift from information scarcity in the industrial age to knowledge abundance in the digital era. The unprecedented digital convenience brings significant opportunities for accelerating the business speed and shifting from resource deficiency to business efficiency to digital proficiency. Although knowledge is more intangible, complex and dynamic compare to the physical asset, the organizations should be able to put some measurable value on the information and knowledge assets because it is "vital" to the business. Information management and knowledge management should be managed holistically as the corporate asset; if done properly; it can turn the most valuable personally-owned information and knowledge assets into corporately owned assets. Hence, the top digital leaders need to have the proficient understanding of their particular organization's current and potential corporate structure, strategic plan, practice the expert power, with the ability to gain the digital fluency. To catalyze business, IT has to recharge itself as well, to engage IT employees and digitalize its own processes for building competencies. Business will be more successful when they realize that one of their greatest strengths will be their multifaceted digital proficiency to scale up and shift from “doing digital” for achieving business efficiency to “being digital” for improving business effectiveness, agility, and maturity.

Organizations rely more and more on technology; the IT department has more and more to overcome.  To break the mold, IT needs to rethink itself as an innovative and business leading organization. It has to provide both business and technical insight into how they bring success to the company as a whole instead of being a support center. The faster the top leadership team understands that IT is not just technical, but rather business-driven, the highly visible IT can elevate its maturity from “controlling to change to innovate,” from "surviving to striving to thriving," and from "deficiency to efficiency to proficiency," proactively drive business transformations relentlessly.


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