In a recent post on the Forrester Blog for CIOs, Sharyn Leaver writes an inspired response to Susan Cramm’s 8 Things We Hate About IT. As outlined in CIO Insight, Cramm’s “8 Things” focus on the following business-IT relationship issues:
- Service or Control?
- Results or Relationships?
- Tactics or Strategies?
- Expense or Investment?
- Quickness or Quality?
- Customization or Standardization?
- Innovation or Bureaucracy?
- Greatness of Goodness?
In her post, Leaver refers to the above as ““8 Beaten-to-Death Clichés” about IT-business relationships”. However, her point isn’t directed at Cramm, but rather the situation that business and IT executives and professionals continue to inhabit. As a way out, Leaver offers some good observations and actionable advice. Her first two points relate to organizational design:
- “Tension between IT and line businesses is designed into organizational structures. Hard-wiring organizational lines into centralized IT “shops” assigned to business units or combinations puts IT unwittingly into a self-perceived servant relationship with business units. No doubt in recent economic downturn years, increasing centralization of IT has resulted in a cementing of “us” versus “them” — where as federated and decentralized structures preserve some of “us” within “them” and align attitudes and goals accordingly. HR, Accounting, Facilities, and other centralized services all struggle with balancing acts of meeting the needs of those they service.
- Preserving a request-fulfill relationship institutionalizes disappointment all around. Missed expectations and unhappiness result from a “take a number” approach to queuing up service requests, ranking them according to some criteria, estimating fulfillment time, and attempting to deliver in the face of numerous “Look over there!” distractions. Again, breaking up some of the IT resources into the business units for dedicated and local work would help. CIOs should read and absorb Forrester’s BT model for operating IT.”
From a Business Ecology perspective, we refer to these design shifts as Business-IT Integration:
“Business-IT Integration is the organizational model for business and information technology convergence. This model promotes collaborative strategy, planning, architecture and execution; shared decision-making, business-tech savvy personnel and service delivery at the point of value generation.”
Similar to Leaver, we are not saying immediately or completely decentralize IT, nor are we calling for an end to enterprise-level strategies and resources, but rather, that a new model is required. A model that supports near-term needs as well as business vitality over time, balancing current conditions, optimization and innovation focus areas, resource allocations, and longer-term business motivations, capabilities and outcomes.
As Leaver points out, the time of lamenting needs to end, it is time to take action.
To gather other actionable ideas, I plan to read Cramm’s book. A related read I highly recommend is Weill and Ross’ IT Saavy. For the all important peer interaction regarding Business-IT Integration, consider joining us in Jacksonville FL, March 23-24.
If you can’t join us in March, but have some ideas, success stories, or warnings you would like to share, please leave a comment, or drop an email.
[Disclosure: The Business Ecology Initiative is a client of my firm, Elemental Links.]