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As a CIO and CTO, I have been facing the challenge to design, build and deploy smart systems which can flex and scale with the business and help the business processes to deliver optimum efficiencies possible.
While the mandates from the top management and from the peer CXO’s is very clear, the journey to achieving real tangible success depends on several factors. In this article I would like to deal with these challenges and see if we can collaborate as practitioners to find smarter solutions for the same.
IT for IT
Let’s start with the IT Function first, because if we don’t transform IT we cannot enable or help our peers in the business to deliver their corporate objectives. Also there has been a traditional wisdom that charity begins at home. We need to review what delivery processes, organizational competencies, skill sets, tools, techniques, architecture principles, team collaboration exists in our own function. We need to design and build a function aligned to the industry sector that we exist for. For e.g. a B2C organization needs a fundamentally different approach than a B2B. It should also vary depending on the size, geographical spread, age, market position, maturity cycle, future aspirations (if the board level strategic vision exist?) etc of the business itself. Traditional IT has been an asset focused function. With changing tech developments and innovations the services mind-set transformation of IT itself is a journey of sorts. Building and leveraging supplier relationships to augment the IT function delivery capability is becoming more and more important as its very difficult for end user organizations to maintain such skill pools and keep them up-to-date at all times. This is both a boon and a curse as by external augmentation we can deliver faster but the costs of delivery is higher and fraught with quality concerns. Supplier performance at optimal costs is one of the top 5 challenges of all CIO’s / CTO’s that I have met in last 20 years.
"Smarter systems need smarter people to extract the value and generate successful business outcomes"
Every organization has a unique outlook and perspective towards their technology and IT functions. There is considerable degree of variation of the value perception. Transforming that perspective does take time as we need to struggle with IT transformation in parallel to delivering the BAU and new digital tools. Nowhere, can we get the liberty of stopping from delivering to improve the IT Services. I believe morphing into a services focussed function while continuing to lead and deliver digitalisation is the key characteristic of a successful IT for IT program.
IT for Business
IT suffers an enigma from its past failures in terms of responding quickly to business requirements. This response time and rate is also something which needs striking a fine balance, as too much speed and not thinking through some of the TCO aspects, long term scalability of the platform, appropriate fit for the business, etc. can cause lack of long term sustainability of the deployed solution rendering it as a legacy application dumped by users and moved on to next. Too slow, and the business will find alternate short cuts/shadow IT solutions internal or external which will lead to pushing the IT function value lower into the business value chain. These cycles of delivery case studies in the organization often vary based on function to function. The adaptability to smarter digital processes enabled by technology solutions varies in the organization and one of the prime factors of that as per my personal experience have been the degree of technology acceptance and appreciation, and to some extent personal exposure of the head of the function.
Every technology adoption pitch used to have one common message in their slide deck “this program needs to be supported by the top management.” I used to believe in this in the early years of my career. What it implied was that command and control is very hierarchical. The new age innovative corporations now put more emphasis on flatter and network type of organizations wherein creativity and innovation has maximum effect closer to customer delivery processes. With this approach now, any digital program need to have a genesis from the grass roots levels to improve the KPI’s of the value chain workflows. Sometimes what needs to be transformed is not visible to many levels up as they are far removed from the realities of the end processes. They are mostly influenced by IT Marketers selling them dream. Hence the true and tangible drive and need identification for change has to be felt strongly by the middle level of the organization and they need to lead the change into the CXO community. IT function need to align and collaborate with these champions of change and help them achieve the outcomes which can move the needle for the business performance. Planning and organizing a digital competence program across the mid and lower levels of the organization can help drive the overall digitalization agenda.
The digital competency across the organization both in IT and in business is the key success factor for achieving a sustainable adoption of a digitally transformed business operation. Smarter systems need smarter people to extract the value and generate successful business outcomes.