Monday, September 17, 2018

Digital IT as The Engineering Discipline with Both Artistic and Scientific Touch

Engineering = System + Operation + Methodology + Design + Creativity + Science + Process

Running the digital IT organization is the engineering discipline as the practical application of digital principles and practices constrained by the laws of the science domain. Running an IT organization as a business solutionary is about how to apply scientific logic and engineering discipline to break big business problems down into deliverable chunks for presenting value to the business at regular intervals. In fact, engineering is both art and science. If there is a magic formula, could it be: Engineering = System + Operation + Methodology + Design + Creativity + Science + Process?

System: If you look at a company as a collection of subsystems with integrated business elements. Information System (IS) is a business-centric system that deals with information management for collecting, storing, processing and delivering information, knowledge, and digital products/services. IT systems are not just glorified computer programs, it is actually the backbone of the business and provides invaluable information for either decision-making or problem-solving. Information systems are business oriented, integrate hardware, software and many other pieces of IT components to help business users accomplish business objectives. IT is a system which has an emergent property of individual human beings making sense of experiences in time and place.

Operation: The CIO must be concerned as to whether the IT system will function as expected, keeping the fundamental right, but also achieving operational excellence through eliminating waste, consolidation, and optimization. IT plays a crucial role in optimizing business operation management capacity with a keen eye to grasp growth opportunities, manage risks, and improve operational efficiency. When IT operation is refined to the point that it can adapt to changing business demands in a timely fashion, and it can be adjusted to meet the business priority, and be effective with the little down curve, IT is on the right track to achieve high-level operational competency.

Methodology: Running high performance IT takes both strategy and methodology. Digital IT leaders need to be well prepared to constantly realign technology against the enterprise’s business needs and apply the tailored methodology to solve emerging problems effectively. They have to orient the IT organization for realignment, and therefore, they should communicate vision with credibility and passion, motivate business stakeholders and IT team to collaborate effectively to achieve business success. With scientific methodologies, top IT performers make an excellent work breakdown structure that results in an accurate cost, time, and resource estimation. There is a digital methodology, called user-centric IT, it’s about running IT management from outside-in customers’ view for digitizing the touch point of customers and improving customer satisfaction.

Design: There are two sides of IT: Often the complexity of IT is behind the scene, but the user interface needs to be intuitive and easy to use. The strategic objective of design thinking is to understand what your customers need and to help the business orient itself towards those needs in pursuit of its objectives. The user interface is not just about wireframes and visual designs. You are thinking about brand, positioning, and rigorous user understanding. To leverage design thinking, you also need to understand the company’s long-term goals, business identity or brand, and the industry realities such as competition or marketing position, etc. The good design supports the business strategy for building a people-centric company.

Creativity: IT shouldn’t just provide the cool gadgets and expect the new ideas will start flowing in automatically. Besides design thinking, creativity should become the daily practices of running digital IT organization, from fresh idea generation to alternative solution discovery. Forward-looking IT organizations are transforming from a commodity service provider to an innovation hub of the business. Creativity without a direction or purpose is about building technology for the technology’s sake. It is critical that creativity is focused not on the technology, but on how it can be used to advance the business objectives. Digital IT leaders must realize that stifling the creative side of IT will set back business, and if they aren’t able to think creatively in IT, they would be floundering as much as those falling mighty.

Science: IT engineering practices and disciplines require scientific approaches and structural problem-solving capabilities. Science = "What" & "How." What defines science from chance is the ability to repeat a process with the same resultant solution every time, through the application of known facts. Talking about science, it claims to be based on both inductive and deductive reasoning. It’s the ability to produce solutions in a problem domain repeatedly. With engineering as science, different people specify requirements and design you get the same results, and different people read the resulting specifications, you get the same explanation. Running IT as a scientific discipline is to ensure its service functionality, reliability, performance, and maintainability, etc.

Process: Processes underpin business competency. Strong business processes have a better chance to deliver a better result. The reality in most organizations though is the process which is forcibly jammed within an existing organizational design. Thus, process management effectiveness and efficiency achieved through standardization and optimization directly impact strategy management success and business performance. With the business change as the new normal, the process, structure, behavior, and self-interest of individuals and groups - all these factors interact in a dynamic. With hyperconnectivity and interdependence nature of digital businesses and the very characteristics of nonlinearity, adaptability, unrepeatability, unpredictability, and denial of control, business process management also needs to become more dynamic and people-centric.

IT is an engineering discipline, as always, but adding more enriched digital context for the paradigm shift. Do not think engineering is only about science, the hard data or process; there are artistic touches and the full spectrum of creativity in it. Digital organizations and systems have to practice engineering disciplines, foster creativity and take systematical approaches to manage an insightful IT organization for driving business changes and transformation.


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