By, David Berndt – Senior Partner and IT Practice Leader
Running the IT Organization Like a Business
In today’s business environment, technology is critical to every function in a company. It provides for competitive advantages over the competition; those that embrace technology are leaders in their industries. Unfortunately, IT is often seen as a large overhead cost with large project backlogs resulting in less than optimal returns on the investments. Companies must run their IT organization as a business in order to receive the essential value that can and should be provided.
In order for IT to be a trusted business partner, the department needs to act and think as a business rather than as a technologist. As the organization becomes a business partner rather than a support function, IT will provide real business value.
An IT organization that is running like a business will demonstrate the following traits:
A strategic IT organization is involved throughout the corporate planning process as an integral member. Business strategy is a critical component of any highly effective IT strategy. Successful businesses ensure that the business and IT strategies are tightly aligned to ensure maximum results.
IT Strategy provides the “what” and IT governance provides “how” to ensure the goals established with the business are successfully achieved. The IT governance structure should mirror the overall governance used throughout the business.
An accountable IT organization meets its goals and clearly communicates when goals will not be achieved. A well run organization focuses on more than just the basic infrastructure but instead focuses on providing the values required for the business to meets its goals. The measures IT provides are well understood and easily accessible by the business. Some key measures include on time, on budget projects that achieve the stated project objectives.
Best in class IT organizations understand and appreciate the impacts of technology on all customer constituencies. Focusing on customer needs allows the organization to move from a help desk mentality to helping customers be more self-sufficient, effective, and efficient through their use of technology. They listen to their customers and document their needs and requirements to ensure a common understand. Then gain approval of the document specifications.
The culture of the IT organization must be innovative to maximum the ability of the organization to meet today’s business demands. The leading organizations provide new ways to utilize technology to provide new revenue streams, new cost efficiencies, or improved customer satisfaction. Innovation is a hallmark of a strong IT organization. They become a consultative organization providing alternative solutions and best practices.
IT requires strong personnel to succeed. Leading organizations ensure that their individuals are coached and mentored not just in technology but also in business. Identifying and rewarding the top performers are also a key processes achieved by providing challenging projects, leadership development, and career planning that are reviewed regularly.
Leaders within IT organizations must be aware of and understand business needs, industry trends, and technical trends and advances. This awareness must also incorporate the financial impact of technology on the business.
Excellence in project and program management is essential to meet project timelines, budgets, and business objectives. Without excellent project and program managers the desired results will not be achieved.
Leading organizations expect their IT organizations to be strategic rather than cost cutters, to spend more time and budget on innovation rather than infrastructure management, and to provide ongoing valuable insights into how technology can provide improvements throughout the business. They understand the business priorities and focus on delivering outstanding results on the critical projects rather than doing a lot of project pretty good.
Much like any business, the process of running IT as a business is ever changing. Being willing and able to adapt as both business and technology change is critical for success. Those who embrace these realities succeed and add value to their organizations. IT should not be a black box that just provides basic services but should strive to enable your organization to meet its goals. All organizations utilize technology but leading organizations do it to provide a real competitive advantage. The process of changing an IT organization to a business driven approach is iterative and not necessarily easy, but the effort is always worth the results.
If you are interested in completing a short survey to assess your IT organization or have any questions please contact Dave Berndt at David.Berndt@Experience-on-Demand.com