Those who work in IT know that it has tremendous potential to transform business. It has been studied by academics such as Harvard Business School professor Kristina Steffenson, who asked why so many companies get it wrong, creating a huge gap between the most IT-savvy firms and the IT laggards.
She pointed out that organisations must be willing to engage in radical change in order to achieve the benefits from IT, bringing together processes, people, organisational structures and supply chain partners.
Unfortunately, today’s economic climate is making it more difficult for organisations to introduce IT innovation. With budgets tight, finance directors are looking for rapid return on investment, while continued restructuring has driven out strategic thinkers in medium-sized businesses.
Change programmes tend to be imposed in response to things like changes in legislation, rather than driven by a strategic vision. Meanwhile, complex infrastructure that is no longer fit for purpose is a problem for many organisations, but they are unwilling to make changes unless they are convinced that the alternative is substantially better.
Businesses are also hampered by the belief that good performance means avoiding failure, not making mistakes. Another US academic, Edward D. Hess, points out that this can limit willingness to innovate because it requires a willingness to fail and learn.
Hess believes that being smart is not about knowing all the answers but knowing what you don’t know, prioritising what you need to know, and being very good at finding the best evidence-based answers.
Many IT directors are keen to adopt new ways of working, such as cloud and SDN, but are trying to understand the why and how before going ahead. What they need is to step back and take a long, hard look at how IT is meeting the needs of the business.
The real value of IT to most organisations come from three factors: the business specific applications and data to run their operation; the business process improvements that can be implemented more effectively using IT; and the information and insights that can be gained from the data the organisation retains.
If organisations continue to do what they have always done, they cannot expect to achieve a different result. Business imperatives leave limited time for strategic thinking, so obtaining expert opinion from outside the organisation can help to provide the data on which to develop a business case for the board.
Existing suppliers may not be best placed to do this, so benchmarking against leading organisations, studying analyst recommendations and talking to companies who have a track record in delivering IT changes in order to benefit from their experience, are recommended. A fresh perspective may be all that’s needed to ensure that a change programme achieves the desired results.
For example, one organisation who was implementing a £1 million improvement programme was continuing to experience major reliability issues. On review of the constituent projects, it was discovered that they were not designed to deliver specific business outcomes, so a programme to install software that would warn of potential infrastructure problems had been completed and closed, but the software was not being used as the project brief had been solely about installation. Having identified the problem, projects could be prioritised and the in-house team could then complete the change programme successfully.
Organisations considering a change programme should begin with a business and IT alignment review. This will ensure that it has accurately defined the service levels it requires for the key operational processes that IT supports, and that it fully understands the cost, performance and availability implications of these service levels.
Change is always risky and IT change is extremely visible – if problems occur, there is no place to hide. But by asking the right questions, researching the options and learning from the best, IT departments can gain the confidence to do what is best for the organisation.
Sourced from Richard Blanford, Fordway