IT complains that they are order takers rather than business partners. The point to the observation that IT sees problems right away but has to wait for the business to develop an idea, recognize a problem or see an opportunity. The waiting creates a time gap between identifying and addressing a business issue that separates IT from the business. The greater the time lag, the greater the separation.
IT’s position in the waiting room has historical and functional roots.
Historically, IT operates under the assumption that demand for IT is greater than the supply. Managing this Demand > Supply model is the job of IT governance and an annual planning process. Given their annual focus, these processes are not readily able to respond to business issues that come up continuously throughout the year.
Functionality, IT organizations are slower to respond to the need for change than other organizations because it takes time to design, build and deploy new systems. The time gap between issue recognition and new solutions is a reality in IT and for every other type of change needed to raise business performance.
CIOs and IT executives use governance, structured help desk processes and other mechanism to create time buffers between the identification of a business issue, its prioritization and addressing through a project. Those buffers help keep the IT do its job. The price is not measured in money as much as time – mostly in wait time the business feels every day.
The reasons for these buffers are disappearing as enterprises have greater choice in how to provision technology solutions, core systems are in place and the major business issues are incorporated into the operating model. Here are a few suggestions to reduce the time lag:
- Move IT governance out of the planning & finance department and into operational management so it ahs the ability to make decisions in real time about which problems to solve and when.
- Use operational data to identify and position emerging business issues. CFO’s use financial data to keep score, why can’t the CIO use operational data to capture leading indicators and identify issues and resolutions early.
- Reduce the planning horizon to 90 or 120 days opening IT plans for greater flexibility to match the emergence of business issues. If demand > supply then you can rest assured that you will be working on the most important thing.
- Reuse and leverage applications rather than rebuilding or adding to technical complexity. This means taking advantage of the resources you have and reconfiguring them rather than taking time to rip and replace.
- Detonate the technical silos inside of IT that reduce its flexibility and raise your ability to mobilize resources across IT groups to address issues.
- Raise the productivity of IT personnel through changes in IT processes (e.g. Agile) as well removing bottlenecks across IT (e.g. testing and requirements)
Business partners share their concerns and take joint action to address business issues. Waiting to be asked is frustrating for the business and IT. Addressing the time gap reduces one of the barriers separating business from IT.
This is part of a series on the ways in which IT separates itself from the rest of the enterprise. The first/keystone post can be found at this link