Saturday, June 24, 2017

Accelerating IT Digitalization by Avoiding these Pitfalls

Enforcing cross-functional communication and collaboration is one of the crucial steps to avoid IT management pitfalls.

Many organizations are on the journey of digital transformation, but it is the path not being fully discovered and explored yet. Or put another way, as every organization is at the different stage of the business growth cycle, each of them has to match their own pace, fit their own circumstances, and develop their own set of next practices for accelerating digital transformation. There are many roadblocks and hidden barriers along the way. Old IT thinking cannot move fast enough in the era of digitalization. Digital CIOs today need to have both business acumen and technological understanding to become the trustful business advisor and empathetic IT manager in order to lead effectively and digitize IT effortlessly.

IT failure is caused by the management of IT rather than just IT management: The traditional IT organization was run as the isolated support function to provide some commoditized services without sufficient understanding of the top line business expectation as well as how IT can drive changes and accelerate digital transformation proactively. Thus, there is a big gap between IT and business, there is a disconnect between what the business wants and what IT thinks business wants. And often IT failure is caused by the management of IT rather than just IT management. Nowadays, information is permeating into every corner of the business, and technology is the disruptive force behind the digital transformation. IT management is not just the business of the IT department, it’s the responsibility of the entire company. To unleash the full potential of information, IT is not a function that can be handled only in the IT department or by IT managers. The responsibility for evaluating and monitoring the performance of IT investment lies with the C-Level/board leadership team. IT failure is caused by solving the wrong problems (fixing the symptom only) due to the miscommunication between IT and business. The wrong cause of the problem will perhaps grow new or larger problems and create a disconnect between IT and the business. Also, when they do this, they allow problems to grow under the surface, out of sight, out of mind, make it worse, or until it’s too late and fail the business fatally. Often, IT is not empowered by the top leadership team to work across the functional border and solve the issues via a holistic approach. They do not have all the information needed, they do not have all the mechanisms & authority to collect that information and they do not have all the skills necessary to evaluate the information. Therefore, the effective management of IT is not just within IT, and IT failure is caused by the management of IT rather than just IT management.

IT gets stuck at the lower level of maturity when it focuses on operations in a low-risk territory and makes incremental improvement only: Solely focus on quantifiable benefits or short-term result stifles innovation. The reason most IT organizations get stuck in the lower level of maturity is that they are too busy on fixing the symptoms, or taking care of immediate problems, not spending sufficient resources on strategic business initiatives and innovation management. Digitizing IT is a transformative management discipline with a long-term perspective, it is an evolutionary approach to fine-tune the underlying business functions as well as all-important business elements (both hard and soft), to manage a balanced business innovation portfolio and leapfrog the entire organization to the next level of maturity. Many disruptive opportunities are brought to life with new thinking on how to monetize them. A disruptive product or innovations is a breakthrough in the existing solutions, something that has the potential to disruptively challenge all existing solutions. It is critical to look at innovation from the perspective of developing business-wide innovation capabilities, with all necessary components including innovation leadership, innovation culture, innovation practices, tools, recognition system measurements, risk approach - not just controlling the risk, but managing risks with high mature management discipline.

IT is perceived as a support function only when it only measure things from IT operational lens, not via business or customer perspective: When IT only measures things from the inside-out operational lens, the business doesn’t have a data-based oversight on what IT can contribute to the business’s growth and build the business competency. Make sure IT and business are always on the same page.  IT metrics need to evolve into something that matters to the business audience; at the same time that "business sentiment" needs to get put into something more tangible. IT management needs to keep collecting feedback from the business upon how to improve IT services and satisfy customers, manage a healthy “run, grow, and transform” IT portfolio in calibrating IT growth with the steadfast pace. The set of questions or measurements includes such as: Does IT create a revenue opportunity? Does IT create a competitive advantage? Does IT solve a business need or meet customers’ expectations? Is IT priority and business priority consistent? Does IT help to attract new customers or retain current customers? Furthermore, the performance measure setting should focus on achieving the ultimate goals of the organization as a whole, not just the individual or the team’s performance.

Enforcing cross-functional communication and collaboration is one of the crucial steps to avoid IT management pitfalls. Frequent and early feedback will mitigate directional problems and ensure the solution delivered is exactly what the customers want. It is also important to get guidance from the board and build the peer to peer relationships within the top leadership team. Without effective guidance/support from the board, the managers in the IT department are perhaps working in the dark -mushroom management. IT needs to move up the maturity level, in pursuit of effectiveness and performance by having governance in place, with a long-term focus to get digital ready.


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