During the last day of the Gartner South African Symposium in Cape Town I met an interesting clients who is tasked with supporting his jurisdiction to become the best run in the world. This is an aspirational objective that his jurisdiction set for the end of his decade and that clearly constitutes a challenge for business and IT alike.
We discussed several aspects, including how to develop a sustainable IT strategy to support such long term goal, how to prioritize and focus on measurable achievements, how to apply smart government principles to stay on course, and more.
I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation, as it is quite unusual these days to meet people who have something more than a tactical view of IT, let alone setting such a long term strategy.
One aspects that I found particularly intriguing was that the IT organization had recently gone through a consolidation process that had resulted into centralizing quite a few services and applications that were previously distributed across different departments. They were clearly planning to build on this tighter control of IT to achieve their objective.
At this point I challenged the client, suggesting that what they have accomplished to solve today’s problems may not be what is needed to help their jurisdiction become a top performer. Is standardization more or less important than agility? Is control more or less important than choice? Should individual departments be deprived of their IT autonomy or should they be helped increase their ability to use IT for their specific purposes?
For how clear the path may look like according to their recent history, the future may require a different approach. It is essential to challenge their own beliefs, to revisit their achievements, governance model, consolidation plans, to make sure that they are able to support their jurisdiction’s ambitious approach going forward.
This is where the rubber hits the road. Many CIOs and IT leaders in government IT organizations swear they want to help the business achieve its objectives, but they are not always ready to challenge their own way of working, especially if the have been successful in dealing with past and present challenges.
This is rarely caused by arrogance (although there are few such cases), but by a genuine appreciation of how difficult it is to be successful at delivering value as a government IT organization and how consolidation is the obvious path to cost saving and risk reduction.
Unfortunately though the world today, and even more tomorrow, is a much more complex place than it was before, and what was a no-brainer in the past may no longer work in the future.
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