Friday, June 7, 2019

Leverage “SWOT” to Assess IT Organizational Maturity

IT is the core of most parts of the business today and must, therefore, be visible and present all the time.

"SWOT" as a strong instrumental analytics tool, in particular, helps an organization put a category (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) to certain characteristics of the organization, giving them relevance in a strategy management processes. Nowadays, IT plays a critical role in driving digital transformation. IT managers can do a “SWOT” analysis for their functional area to make an objective organizational assessment. It’s a great tool that helps managers ask the right questions, answer them systematically, and understand them in context. Because opportunities and threats cannot exist without a context of interaction, especially in today’s digital dynamic.

Make an objective IT strength and competency assessment: Nowadays, IT is the linchpin to build differentiated business competency. IT strength and competency directly impact the competency of the entire company. Thus, it’s important to make an objective assessment of IT performance and potential. More specifically, it’s about evaluating how IT management spends its resource and manage its human capital by asking. Where is the organization on the technology or process adoption curve? What are the risks in taking strategic initiatives? How is IT doing for delivering quality business solutions timely? Is the proposed solution in your wheelhouse? What are the change curves and how to rise above them? How well IT is doing to meet the needs of the business and doesn’t waste time doing the things that don’t matter. Making a fair IT performance assessment helps IT management leverage unique IT knowledge and strength to build business competency by knitting all important elements such as talent, resource, process, and technology, etc, to perform a set of business activities and achieve high-performance business results in a consistent way.

Keep conscious of IT weakness or deficiency: Often, there is the gap between what IT thinks about its business impact and how the business perceives IT. IT is often seen as a business enabler and change agent, but business often thinks that IT is slower to change and even become one of the “weakest links” in strategy management. The mistrust between business & IT is deepened when they are not on the same page of change or innovation. The “lost in translation” syndromes will further cause silo thinking and decelerate business performance. Therefore, besides assessing strengths, IT should be conscious of its weakness or deficiency, what’s the root cause and how to fix it. IT needs to make an assessment via the business lens, to ensure that the “IT Gap,” where people in IT had all the IT answers, is truly closed. If the problems come from the business side. For example, many organizations are not foresightful to empower their IT leaders or lack of in-depth understanding of IT responsibility or technology complexity, IT turns to be an afterthought in those business environmental setting. If that happens, IT management has to work proactively with the business, enforce communication and collaboration, and strive to become the trustful business partner.

Spot opportunities to drive business growth: Digital means the exponential growth of information. Information becomes one of the most time-intensive pieces of change or innovation puzzle. The information-based forecasting is crucial to bring both insight and foresight of the business. In a business scope, there are some of the important bits and bytes of information needed to forecast a new market, predict an emerging technology trend, or spot a business growth opportunity. IT has much more of an opportunity to enable incremental top-line and bottom-line value across the business, not just within IT. IT can also help business improve net by reducing the cost of doing business via various means such as right sourcing and sizing, keeping IT costs flat while at the same time maximizing its output. Though every business function should make their voice heard on this front, have an opportunity and responsibility to participate in the innovation dialog and to come up with innovative ideas, IT generally has a greater opportunity to stand out and take a lead in driving innovation across the scope of the entire company. IT plays a crucial role in expanding the creative side of the business and spotting opportunities to drive business growth. IT maturity is not based on how many years IT organizations have been around and keep running to support the business; but about how well IT can provide innovative solutions to tough business problems; how adaptively it is to respond to changes, as well as how far it can drive the top line business growth and lead the business's digital transformation.

Predict and deal with threats or disruptions that IT face: We live in an era full of uncertainty, velocity, complexity, and ambiguity. The result is a higher risk of conflict and inertia, etc. Digital disruptions are inevitable and digital transformation is unstoppable. Organizations shouldn’t just respond to them in a reactive way. “SWOT” has to be transformed into a multidimensional framework with risk-adjusted measures for opportunities and threats. The IT leader needs to make an objective evaluation of the IT organization's effectiveness and take a periodic risk assessment; weight risk and reward, take prudent risks and find ways to mitigate risk rather than eliminate it, and skillfully apply risk-based thinking to almost every discipline of IT management, including people management, financial management, asset management, reputation management, customer relationship management, organizational structure design, product or service development and so on. Opportunities and risks are coexisting. Ad hoc change is doomed to fail. It’s important to integrate risk management into the everyday business model and move the organization a couple of steps forward in business excellence.

IT is the core of most parts of the business today and must, therefore, be visible and present all the time. It’s very important for contemporary organizations to leverage the “SWOT” tool, continually do “self-reflection” by evaluating IT strength and weakness and assess opportunities and threats. When IT executives move beyond commodity management and begin to show higher level strategic value and dedicate more resources to manage innovation, IT is on the right track to improve its performance, maximize business potential, and move up IT maturity from functioning to firm to delight.


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