Challenging IT Assumptions

By Susan Cramm  |  Posted 12-11-2008 Print Email
A former CIO, now an IT leadership consultant, urges CIOs to questions many traditional IT assumptions when plotting their 2009 strategy.

These days, there is precious little money available for developing new IT capabilities. You do the math. Prior to the credit crisis, around 75 cents of each dollar was spent to keeping existing systems up and operational. Now, overlay the reductions due to the recession, and the result is that a lot of business needs are chasing very few discretionary dollars.

The future of IT depends on a bigger idea--one that incorporates key trends, such as easier-to-use technology, potentially more savvy business partners and extended organizational ecosystems. More importantly, it's an idea that addresses the perennial IT challenge of how to satisfy the seemingly infinite demand with limited capacity.

To get there, we have to challenge the current IT operating model with a few ideal assumptions for the years 2015 and beyond:

Enterprises will recognize that IT is an organizational asset, not simply an organization structure. Senior leadership will embrace the idea that their understanding of IT--and the ability to apply this knowledge in imagining future possibilities--is essential to extracting greater value from IT-enabled initiatives. In addition, there will be broad-based acceptance that day-to-day business operations are dependent on IT, and that the costs and risks are too high to continue to place the burden of responsibility solely on IT.

IT will transition from being the sole provider of the asset to enabling the IT capabilities of others in the enterprise. Business leaders will take direct control over the management of their IT assets in order to increase innovation capacity. This means that managers at all levels will fulfill their day-to-day IT needs on their own, including managing projects and change, performing business process and data analysis, and troubleshooting systems issues. The dedicated IT staff will ensure that IT is applied in direct support of the business strategy, to help the business compete and grow profitability.

  • IT will shift focus from controlling to defining policies. Instead of feeling compelled to be involved in every technology-related activity, IT will work with senior-level executives to define policies (concerning strategy, investments, innovation, architecture, and risks) with assurance that leaders at every level will be held accountable for complying.
  • IT will shift from servicing to coaching. Instead of trying to be the "one-stop shop" for all technology, leaders from the rest of the business will have the accountability and capability to fulfill many of their day-to-day needs on their own. This will allow IT to transition to a coaching role: helping business leaders achieve their goals by increasing their knowledge of systems, business processes, and information on how to identify, justify and execute IT-enabled change.
  • IT will shift from providing point solutions to providing enabling tools. IT will build tools to allow the other parts of the business to change business processes and rules and to access and manipulate information. Organizations are adopting the first generation of these tool sets in the form of spreadsheets, report writers, document and workflow management, and self-service features included in applications. Future tool sets will be delivered as part of the applications, designed as an integrated tool set, and will include permissions-based features to ensure that changes do not negatively affect the enterprise.
  • IT will shift from managing fixed assets to managing variable, on-demand services. With much of the demand and supply management activities distributed throughout the enterprise, flexible capacity will be essential. IT will architect the organization and infrastructure for on-demand access to cost-effective external services and computing capacity, while focusing internal resources on strategy, governance, business technology, architecture, program and change leadership, coaching, vendor management and financial management.

Excerpted from "Circa 2015: The CIO of the Future," by Susan Cramm. Susan Cramm is the founder and president of IT leadership consultancy Valuedance. She is a former CIO of Taco Bell Corporation and CFO at Chevy's Mexican Restaurants. Click here for to download the paper (registration required).

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