Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Three “Balance” Practices to Run Digital IT

Digital transformation is a long-term journey, old IT thinking simply cannot move fast enough in the sea of changes and fierce competitions. 

With the increasing speed of changes and continuous disruptions often led by technologies, the digital era upon us is full of uncertainty, velocity, complexity, and ambiguity. It blurs the geographical, functional, organizational, and even industrial borders nowadays. The hyper-connectivity and IT consumerization bring both challenges and opportunities for IT to ride the exponential growth curves, unleash its full potential and improve the organizational maturity. Here are three “balance” practices to run high performance digital IT.

Maintains coherence, while allowing autonomy: Consider the digital organization as the hyperconnected, interdependent, coherent, and sometimes self-organized and interlaced ecosystem. The hierarchical structure will be slowly and steadily transcended to the flatter, hybrid, or the networked structure. Organizations become complex not for its own sake, but for responding to the dynamic business environment by striking the right balance of stability and fluidity; control and autonomy, centralization and decentralization. These digital organizational coherences are multi-layered; communicate and have boundaries; these boundaries are maintained by attractions and repulsions. The digital coherence is the decisive factor for the success of the business management and how well the organization can take the step-wise approach to make continuous improvement, continuous renewal and build long-term business advantage. The high mature digital organization maintains coherence while allowing autonomy. From the business management perspective, workforce autonomy is about trust and empowerment, people are able to adapt themselves and their organization through a collaborative and peer to peer working relationship, the business can develop the coherent capability via self-adaptive systems, self-management team, and self-motivated people.

Strike the right balance of digital exploration and exploitation: The digital management is the full management cycle of exploration - planning, designing, developing, investing, innovating, monetizing and orchestrating to chase growth opportunities; as well as the management cycle of exploitation - consolidating, rationalizing, modernizing, integrating, securing, or optimizing to improve business effectiveness and efficiency. On one side, IT needs to enable or even catalyze business strategies, deploy innovative value generating. On the other side, IT must support the existing working environment - keeping the lights on, providing reliable services, optimizing cost and managing a balanced application portfolio. Many organizations are running bimodal IT by leveraging two speeds, the industrial speed to keep the business stable and the digital speed to accelerate IT transformation. The exponential growth of information and cross-boundary communication and collaboration bring abundant ideas, how these ideas are recognized, filtered and dealt with becomes a crucial factor for the business’s long term success. Efficiency and innovation often need to go hand in hand. Efficiency will extract the maximum benefit from new ideas; the greater efficiency an organization has, the greater the need is for creativity to maintain the high performance in the long run.

Balance the short-term attention of daily operations and the long-term broad-range vision could steer the organization up to the next level of the strategic height: Logic and rationalism keep business on track, but standard businesses are not viable. From survival to thriving mode, businesses must perform well compared to their peers to be successful in the long run. It is about managing both performance and potential. Forward-looking organizations are on the journey of going digital which is the radical change at the level of the business system, differentiate in terms of the end results on a systematic level. For adapting to the increasing speed of changes, digital organizations have to be nimbler about updating technology and managing information effectively. Thus, IT leaders today must be able to switch confidently between strategic and tactical; transformational and transitional. In practice, sometimes they focus on improving the processes or implementation of performance management or evaluation but fail to look into the system holistically or think long term to shape the future. To keep relevant, IT needs to be positioned as the strategic business partner which requires a collaborative and innovative approach to leverage the organizational strengths and offset weakness, along with inspired and skillful staff who have clear directions on the call to actions and how the work is meeting or exceeding the business expectations.

Digital transformation is a long-term journey, old IT thinking simply cannot move fast enough in the sea of changes and fierce competitions. IT should proactively develop the best and next practices to drive business changes, manage a balanced “run, grow, and transform” portfolio, facilitate business with the better solutions and help to improve the overall organizational effectiveness, performance, and maturity.


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