Business leaders are asking what will be different in the IT Department of the future.
As waves of disruption hit almost every business sector around the world, it’s likely that if the traditional IT department does not radically transform itself, the organisation will become uncompetitive.
To remain relevant, the IT department should look to evolve towards what I consider to be strategic enterprise services. These are digital, rather than IT services.
In essence, this means building the capability to:
- Use technology to transform strategic business intent into reality
- Create ecosystems to rapidly build, prototype and deliver new services using design thinking and a minimal-viable-product approach
- Broker new relationships to inform the business’ strategic capability
- Retain firm control over all risk, governance, legal and compliance considerations by validating and improving controls from a customer perspective
- Prepare the business for new technology trends that loom on the horizon with functional prototypes
The reality is that as business strategy has become more fluid and responsive to changes in market landscapes, many IT departments have become more rigid. They often become cemented in place by concerns such as cost containment, risk mitigation, and bureaucracy.
By moving towards the concept of strategic digital services, the IT team could begin to act more like a marketing agency, for example. In this way, the team identifies services that are needed, and quickly brings them into the organisation for internal validation.
To complete a service offering, IT flexibly acquires capabilities from other partners; without any rigid processes that inhibit innovation or delivery.
These were the grand promises that service-oriented architecture – the dominant IT theme of the early 2000s – largely failed to realise.
But with exponential change now becoming the ‘new norm’ in almost every single vertical and market around the world, the IT department cannot afford to be stagnant.
Failing to make the shift to strategic digital services means that legacy debt will accumulate, the IT department may lose relevance, and ultimately cede control over digital strategy, technology spend, and vendor contracts, to Business.
In an alternative screenplay ending, the flailing IT department could drag the business under – as faster-paced and more agile competitors grab market share.
So, what does the strategic digital services capability look like?
Firstly, the positioning of the IT division is important. By reporting to the CEO or the Board, the CIO and her team are empowered to effect true business transformation. Those organisations who position the CIO under the COO or CFO, for example, are less likely to succeed.
Secondly, the backgrounds and skill-sets of the IT leadership team may need to change. Traditionally technical or general management-based, today’s world seems to require entrepreneurial minds, business strategists, and creative thinkers at the helm.
And thirdly, the ethos of the team should shift from basic support and cost management, to being value-adding and services-focused. The IT team should build business cases, deliver outputs with the passion of a product manager, nurture relationships internally and externally, and discover new opportunities.
By getting all of this right, the IT department is positioned to evolve – providing flexible, scalable digital services, capable of propelling the broader organisation into the brave new digital world.