Monday, May 15, 2017

The Long-Jump to Reach IT Maturity

It’s an arduous journey with the long jump and it takes time and a real commitment to getting a higher level of digital maturity.

IT continues to grow in importance to organizations, both operationally and as a competitive advantage. However, the majority of IT organizations still get stuck at the lower level of maturity, running as a reactive order taker, and being perceived as a cost center and support function. IT organizations can be either leading or supporting, depending on the maturity of the organization and the vision of top leaders. If the organization does not take advantage of or expect the IT department to innovate, initiate change or drive digital transformation, and then in the age of the digital era, IT is unlikely to be delivering the premium solutions for its customers and achieving higher-than-expected results to shareholders. To improve its maturity, IT has to reinvent itself, and top business leaders need to reimagine how to leverage information & technology to build differentiated business competency. It is the journey with thoughtful strategic planning and a step-wise approach to get the business digital ready and take a long jump to reach IT and overall organizational maturity.

At the lower maturity level, IT is a business enabler; at the higher maturity level, IT is an innovation hub and game changer of the business: Broadly speaking, at the lower maturity level, IT is an enabling capability to support business. However, when moving up the maturity, IT should catalyze business growth and become the game changer. IT maturity also depends on how it manages the changes - change attitude and capability. Traditional IT department is perceived as a change laggard, with a controller’s mentality to drag down the business speed to changes. IT staffs are trained early on to focus on change control as a sort of promotion to the production process; they are overloaded by the customers’ requests for bandaging the symptoms, and their performance is evaluated by some quantitative measures only. They don’t get motivated to step out of the comfort zone and take innovative efforts for problem-solving.  “Keeping the lights on” only is important, but it’s not sufficient to build a high mature distinguished IT organization. IT has to do more with innovation, because innovations bring the new opportunity for the business growth, and create a unique business advantage. At the high-innovative organizational setting, information and idea flow smoothly and innovation is not serendipity, but a systematic management discipline & processes which underpin strategy execution. People are empowered to align their professional goals with business strategic goals to unleash the collective human potential and lead the business to the next level of the growth cycle and business maturity.

At the lower maturity level, IT is struggling to align with the business; at the higher maturity level, IT is striving to align with customers (internal users & end customers): Traditional organizations follow the reductionistic management philosophy to improve the certain level of functional efficiency. The side effect is that, more often, organizations are too siloed to be able to relate coherently as a holistic business to the customer's journey. Modern digital organizations are not just the sum of functional pieces, but an integral whole to maximize their performance and achieve customers’ expectation. Today’s organizations are at a crossroads where the segregation or silo of business units are at a need to reach across the aisles and respectively work with each other.  Each business function brings a unique perspective and a set of skills to the table. To make the link strong and the outlook clear is to empower the IT team and make them think through the business world and from the customers’ perspective while working on the customer-centric solutions. It is the time to put one ahead of change curves and make a long jump from “aligning IT with the business,” to “align IT with the customer.” The biggest challenges for IT leaders would be the inability to effectively communicate the importance of delivering to expectations vs. requirements. IT should both leverage powerful digital technologies to improve internal users’ productivity, engagement, and creativity; but also take initiatives to digitize the touch point of end user’s customer experience, and improve the overall business responsiveness and maturity.  

At the lower maturity level, IT is measured through inside-out IT operational lens; at the high maturity level, IT is evaluated from outside-in business lens:  Digital transformation is now affecting all aspects of business operations from innovation within and around business ecosystem, to customer engagement, to business models and processes. Hence, IT ROI performance management should take into account both financial and non-financial measures, assessing internal improvements, past outcomes and ongoing requirements as indications of future performance. In this regard, a Balanced scorecard offers a way for IT and business executives to gain a wider perspective on its strategic decisions by considering the impact on finances, customers, internal processes and employee satisfaction. A well-defined scorecard should contain a good mix of outcome measures along with performance drivers to track the progress in the short term (operational value) as well as provide the long-term data-based perspective (strategic value) for decision-making.

Besides the disruptive digital technology trends and overwhelming information growth, IT effects in radical digital tuning are to be an integrator in knitting all important business factors, to improve business agility, flexibility, innovativeness, speed, customer-centricity, and maturity. Companies across sectors ultimately respond to the external environment as geopolitics, rapid innovation, and social expectations change the business landscape and blur the digital territories. It is a strategic imperative to broaden the IT outlook and envision the bigger picture of digitalization, reimagine the art of possible and maximize IT potential. IT maturity is based on overall business maturity. IT maturity can further accelerate business changes and make a leap of digital transformation. And there are no shortcuts to getting to that state. It’s an arduous journey with the long jump and it takes time and a real commitment to getting there.


Post a Comment