Wednesday, November 01, 2006

New Economy IT Department Transition

As IT shops are being forced to become more accountable for their spend and to prove value-add, it still surprises me the trouble that some shops are having at making this transition. The interesting thing is that most of it is about attitude, and not about a lack of skills or technical knowledge. Earlier this year I wrote down a list of successful tacktics to complete this transition and here are a few of them:

Connect IT to Business Strategy: If your technology strategy is not connected and driven by the business strategy, it is unlikely that you will achieve the highest value-add potential. In addition, develop an IT balanced scorecard as part of this strategy, that includes items that are pain points with the business. Adding items that you score well on but don't particularly matter to the business strategy is enticing to some, but not particularly useful. Support this with an ongoing IT Steering committee with Senior business leaders so that IT direction can be proactively managed.

Shift the IT Culture to that of a Consultancy: It is important for everyone in IT to understand that they are a cost center. Most shops already have felt or understand the idea that the business has choice in this area. Think like a consultant - remember who is paying your 'rates', be polite, be flexible, and deliver value added services. So what value added services can differentiate an internal shop from outside competition. The best way to do this is deep knowledge of the business domain, used to deliver the right products based on customer needs in an efficient manner. This can also be helped by hiring technical people that care about the business. Avoid technical people who just care about the next new software app they can put on their resume (unless software is your business).

Create Shared Ownership: Try to move away from segregation between IT and 'the business'. Bringing the groups together can go a long way to creating synergies. Try creating oversight groups in areas that there is obvious cross over. Business Intelligence/Data Management and Process Management are two good examples. Another option is to develop a model where cross functional action teams are created to address business/IT issues. There is usually some component of both, and this puts everyone in the same boat for resolution instead of finger pointing.

Create an Environment of Mutual Respect: It is important for both members of the IT department and the business customers respect that value that each brings to the table. This will increase trust and thereby increase speed and reduce costs. The IT department should work to find and nurture business champions for IT. Just like client referrals, appropriate business champions from successful initiatives can go a long way building better relationships. Bring business personnel into IT process improvement initiatives. They will get a better understanding for IT processes and bring a unique perspective. Bring IT personnel into business process improvement initiatives. IT personnel often have a cross functional view of the org. that business silos do not. IT should make special effort to try and better understand the business, and really reach out to understand customer needs. An great example of a 'respect builder' in one place I worked there was a program called 'keeping in touch', where all professional staff (both business and IT) sat with call center personal for minimally an hour a month to listen to customer calls, see how they used IT systems to do their job. Sitting directly with true end users can bring amazing clarity.

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