Friday, May 26, 2017

IT is the Business inside the Business

The payoff of IT digital transformation is not just for the quick win, but to build the long-term business competency.

At traditional organization setting, IT was perceived as a support function only to keep the lights on. Nowadays, information is permeating into every corner of the business and digital technologies are the driving force behind business disruptions. The exponential growth of information and the tide of “digital transformation” is creating new innovation opportunities for the business. The business must begin to see IT as an integral part of the business and not just as an enabler. In fact, IT is the business in the business and the digital engine of the entire organization. The role of the CIO continues to evolve rapidly in the midst of the information in digital transformation and accelerating changes in technology.

The digital revolution means that channels to customers, running IT as a customer-centric business: IT has both internal and external customers, IT doesn’t exist to take the order from internal customers only. IT doesn't exist to do everything it is asked. Nor does it exist to implement without business justification. It is there to manage a scarce and expensive resource for the business, to improve both top-line business growth and bottom line efficiency. IT is the plumber to keep information flow, IT is also a conductor to play its own music sheet and orchestrate digital symphony. When IT leaders complained that they are not invited to the big table for participating strategy making and oversight, and when business departments complain that the IT department doesn’t understand business, you know, the gaps between business and IT are enlarged. From talent management perspective, often correctly skill roles are missing from an integral digital organization; what is needed are lots more impartial and independent hybrid talents (either specialized generalists or generalized specialists) who can help businesses define a robust and rigorous set of needs, work with technologists to deliver the solution and with both parties to ensure the desired outcome happens. The reality is that business leaders need digital acumen as much as financial acumen, psychological knowledge as well as business/technology knowledge, doing its best to see that the application of IT brings the best business results. IT is the business of the business.

IT and the business need to develop a truly equal partnership and work to pursue the desired outcomes: IT shouldn’t react just as a support function to keep the lights on. As nowadays, businesses count on IT to process data, refine information and capture insight, to grasp the emergent business opportunities or prevent the potential risks. “First seeking to understand then be understood.” IT is no longer that island, or corner and those who still want to stick in that corner or periphery are living in a fool's paradise! IT is integral to the business. It cannot deign to step off the line and work autonomously. Today’s IT professionals understand there are only business initiatives, keep the end in mind to either achieve business value or improve customer satisfaction. IT can't behave in a vacuum or at arm’s length; IT acts as a change agent for different functions and countless other crucial business processes that affect most of an enterprise. Repeatable success comes when IT and business act from 'IT vs. business' to a true partnership.  It is the time for business and IT to take each other more seriously, and ideally, integrate as a whole.

IT strives to be a revenue contributor to the business: IT needs to spend more resources on spotting business growth opportunities, looking for solutions which will directly benefit the external end customers will improve the competitive advantage and in-turn bring in increased revenue. Businesses need people who are passionate about exploiting information enabled by information technology to work at the heart of the enterprise. With emerging digital opportunities and risks, business leaders (including IT leaders) are once again seeing the benefit of the IT strategy is fully part of the enterprise strategy. IT is the business of the business. That is the way to go. Always take the customer views as the basis of either strategy management or performance/measurement, reduce the delivery cycle time to customers. Running IT as the software startup mentality helps to energize the organization to do more with innovation, speed up, reduces the cost of doing business, increases the margin, and even helps to bring the new revenues stream. The companies that are working to bridge IT-business gap will be the most successful business going forward. They see that technology is driving their business regardless of the industry segment they play in, and the information is the gold mine all forward-looking businesses are digging in to explore the art of possible.

To run IT as the business, IT leaders and professionals have to practice strategic thinking, creative thinking and systems thinking to laser focus on customers, and keep the business end in mind, to always think the better way to do things and achieve the high-performance business result. The payoff of IT digital transformation is not just for the quick win, but to build the long-term business competency.


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