IT in 2011: We're Managing Information, Not Just Technology

By Shvetank Shah  |  Posted 03-16-2011

IT in 2011: We're Managing Information, Not Just Technology

The Corporate Executive Board anticipates that three key focus areas will emerge for IT in the next 12 months. These three areas are:

  1. increased business-partner control of IT;
  2. improved information management; and
  3. implementation of end-to-end business services.

Attention will be directed to these three focal points by CIOs who are looking to make their IT organizations as flexible as possible, while redirecting resources toward growth--all without undermining hard-fought gains in data integration and cost control.

Control of IT: Building a Real Business Partnership

Demand for increased business-partner control of IT is coming from opposite ends of the workplace spectrum: senior business executives and frontline end users. Business leaders are able to make technology decisions as IT services become increasingly easy to procure and as software as a service (SaaS) matures. End users are demanding unprecedented levels of choice, they're bringing new devices into the corporation--with or without IT approval -- and they have expectations of responsive service.

CIOs will need to support this changing dynamic by helping non-IT professionals make the right technology decisions. To do so, we advise CIOs to take these three steps:

  1. Build a common understanding of critical business capabilities. Create a coherent approach to diverse demands from different business leaders through the shared language of business capabilities. IT should aim to equip business partners to define the needed capabilities and insist that architecture, delivery and security teams use these capabilities to shape planning and prioritization.
  2. Become a coach in SaaS selection decisions. Leading IT executives and applications groups in the enterprise should adjust how they operate with vendors and business partners. Some applications groups are taking on the roles of concierge, coach and integrator, for example. These roles enable them to work fluidly with those business-side colleagues within the organization who are moving aggressively to meet their own department's technology needs.

  3. Experiment with ways to securely allow a growing number of devices into the corporation. Infrastructure organizations will increasingly allow people to bring their own devices to work and will need to adjust governance and security to accommodate this diversity. Successful organizations will allow pockets of end users, or "microcolonies," with different governance structures to manage access and security issues for various devices. Successes with these experiments could be brought to the larger corporation in a controlled manner. In anticipation of increased device diversity, CIOs will want to look for flexible, device- and platform-agnostic access-management solutions, such as virtual desktops, as well as second-generation content filtering systems such as data loss prevention (DLP) tools.

The Key to IT-Driven Competitive Advantage

Information management will be the centerpiece for many IT-related demands. Business leaders require improved analytics to navigate macroeconomic uncertainty and target customer microsegments. We are seeing evolving demand for business analytics in new-project portfolios, particularly information-centric initiatives such as business intelligence and collaboration. As process automation opportunities diminish and user expectations grow, information management becomes the key to competitive advantage from IT.

Unfortunately, IT gets low marks for its ability to support information management. In 2011, we anticipate IT leaders will drive forward information management initiatives and also seek to train or recruit people with skills in advanced analytics and management of unstructured information.

Users want advanced analytics and need seamless access to all manner of data: structured, unstructured, internal and external.

However, IT is still tackling basic questions of architecture and governance. We expect enterprise architects will explore new methods to make information accessible. These approaches might include advanced search, data sampling and hot-spot maps to find out which information-intensive tasks are most frustrating, and why.

To help IT staff understand information management's challenges and priorities, we expect organizations to build knowledge-worker profiles that illustrate these needs. This will lead to an improved ability to identify social media needs, prioritize information usability (not just access) and flexibly integrate information.

End-to-End Services: From Infrastructure to CIO Initiative

Traditionally, building infrastructure has been the CIO's starting point in developing an IT framework that drives business value. We anticipate that in the next 12 months, development of end-to-end business services will move from being an infrastructure challenge to becoming a strategic challenge for the CIO.

Many organizations seek to create a set of end-to-end business services for which IT is a component. Such services are easy for business partners to understand and therefore stand to enhance decision-making on how and where to improve services to achieve business outcomes. Deep CIO involvement is needed to build links to architecture, finance and security, and to overcome silos and skeptical stakeholders.

This evolution of the end-to-end business services model will have a significant impact on the structure of IT itself. CIOs will need to change the portfolio and leadership of IT's subfunctions, rethink skills and charging models, and clarify the benefits to business partners. The results will reshape IT and position the CIO to lead the organization toward multifunctional shared services.

The future requires an environment in which IT executives, senior corporate leaders and business stakeholders collaborate to streamline processes and increase productivity. Companies that fail to acknowledge these shifts may find themselves playing catch-up as their progressive counterparts employ this collaborative approach to moving the business agenda forward.

Shvetank Shah is executive director, information technology practice, with The Corporate Executive Board.