Is Your Information Technology Effective?
The continuing sense of frustration with IT everywhere has resulted in a shift to decentralization of roles that were formerly the strict domain of IT. Ultimately little of what IT has done has gone away, but much of it is scattered around the organization. Gathering business requirements? No longer an IT role. Leading projects? That’s the central PMO group or someone from the sponsoring department. Deciding what tools to use or how to architect the solution? Not IT in some companies.
IT has become a “ticket taking” organization that only needs to execute and barely think much in some companies. This naturally devalues the CIO or whoever is at the head of such an organization. Often, the executive-in-charge, especially in midsize organizations, has numerous responsibilities other than IT.
This distributed organization seldom has a good “birds eye view” of an organization’s technology use. Technology is doubtless a prime determinant of the success of any business and, at some point, some organization, presumably and by default IT, needs to have this as a chartered focus. This means IT needs to step up.
Here are several questions to ask of IT to determine what the gap is.
1. What is the ROI of IT?
I know this is a huge question, but the CIO (presumed head of IT) should be delivering not just efficiencies of whatever centralization there is to the organization, but have strong fingerprints all over projects that deliver positive ROI to the organization. Central IT needs to deliver both ROI and a lowered TCO (to the alternative of decentralized IT) to the organization.
Every person in IT can be divided into ROI and TCO. Those in ROI should be delivering returns in the form of increased sales, reduced COGS and positive product line expansions to the business. Those in TCO need to demonstrate it’s a better structure for IT than the decentralized form. They do this by offering value-added services where the sum of their whole is greater than the sum of the parts of decentralized IT.
Being together should mean synergy and more well founded ideas seeded and implemented into the organization.
2. Is IT operating in a free-market manner?
With perceptible alternatives to centralized IT abounding today with the cloud and offshoring, IT should understand it is in operating in a free market. As a consultant myself, I feel the need to deliver exceptional value to each client, leaving them much better off than before the engagement.
Does your IT have this mentality? Is it concerned with customer satisfaction and real customer improvement? Does it maintain standards and bring new ideas? Does it negotiate in good faith with the internal customers or present a take-it-or-leave-it approach? If the latter, someday the organization might just leave it.
3. Would company technology use pass the sniff test?
Out of compliance and obviously ill-fitted software do not pass the sniff test. Security violations and blank slates to create nonreusable processes on the fly that make getting anything done in regards to technology difficult are hard to accept. If there is centralized IT and these kinds of things for which value propositions could be easily made but are not, there may not be centralized IT for much longer or it could be run by someone else?
4. Is IT talented?
Frankly speaking, if centralized IT is not bringing fresh ideas to the table, much of the reason for having IT centralized is lost. Is there a cloud computing strategy? A big data strategy? Which structure exactly is playing the role of the enterprise data warehouse?
An excellent way of fortifying the skillsets of IT is to bring in fresh ideas from consultancy. IT talent is ultimately evidenced in productive output – both the product IT delivers and that which it decides to table for a while, but all done with a basis in true expertise.
The pressure is on CIOs like never before. If you are a CIO, answer these questions for yourself. If you are not, please positively influence your shop in the right direction. The questions are not unknown, but they may be tacitly ignored for now. Improvements in their answers will be appreciated.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.