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How do you Re-imagine IT?

by Mark P. McDonald  |  February 17, 2011  |  2 Comments

Imagination creates new ideas based on asking what could be.

Re-imagination opens new opportunities by asking what would be possible if?

Its time to re-imagine IT, by that I mean that its time to recognize that some of the fundamentals of IT are changing and those changes open the door to new possibilities.

Re-imagination is the theme of this years Gartner CIO agenda report. The idea behind re-imagination comes from the entertainment industry who is constantly taking well know stories, and re-imagining them to retell the story in a different way.

Re-imagination represents a way for CIOS and IT leaders to rapidly evolve their organization without generating requirements for large scale transformation funding. That is critical, because most companies are looking to keep IT budgets flat. This breaks the old plot line where IT is in trouble, IT fails, IT gets new investments, IT recovers.

So how do you do it? How do you re-imagine IT.

Start with your current situation, your budget, the list investment projects, your operational requirements, service metrics, skills profile, etc. That is the pallet from which to start.

Now ask yourself what would need to change in order for us to be able to change the current trajectory of IT’s plot in the business story, to change ITs story about itself, to change the way IT looks, acts and its potential.


Don’t have enough money — re-imagine your budget

Don’t have the right people — re-imagine your players

Don’t have the right relationship with the business — re-imagine

Now it’s not as easy as that, but you have to start somewhere and here are a few ideas on why it’s possible now to re-imagine these areas.

Re-imagine your budget– adopting virtualization, cloud and managed services reduces the cost of infrastructure and operations. What can we do with those savings?

Conservatively estimate that you may be able to reduce the percent of your budget dedicated to infrastructure and operations by 10% and that you could redirect those funds to other purposes. 10% may not sound like a lot, but it is more than you think.

Consider the situation where you spend 70% of your budget on operations and 30% on investment. Now cut the operations spend by 10% — resulting in a 7% savings. That 7% of operating expense represents an almost 25% increase in the investment budget!

That is real money.

Now the re-imagination comes into play. What would you do with that money? Then ask, what could you do if you had all the funding you needed? What would you do if you get an extra million dollars in your budget with no strings attached?

Now you get the payoff part of the script.

Re-imagine your people – Most CIOs believe that they do not have the right skills in IT and that is holding them back. The need to ‘recast’ the IT players is great, but do not jump too quickly to replace the ‘old’ with the ‘bold’. Consider that most companies already have the core solutions they will need to run their businesses, which makes the experience of people who know how things really work all the more valuable.

Identify the people that use their information to solve problems, seek solutions proactively, and make the organization better. These are the people that you want to invest in, retrain and reposition from operations to solution creation roles.  People who use their knowledge to say why things will not work, cannot see ways around legacy impediments, take the oxygen out of the room may belong somewhere else when it comes time to restructure the workforce.

You have the right people, or your getting there, now what about the audience.

Re-imagine the relationship with the business – Your business peers have heard all the IT/Technology stories before about transformation, innovation etc. They have heard the story about the mandatory upgrade, the compliance project and other things that have to take precedence over the story of how the company makes money. They have also heard the plot twist in those stories, more money, more time, more responsibility. This is an audience in need of a new storyline.

Start with your key business metrics – the ones that drive your company’s economic model and how you make money. What have they done over the past few years, what is their historical performance? Now what is the relationship between changing those metrics and what IT does. No relationship – then you know why IT has little to no relevance. Moving these metrics in the right direction is the plot line the business cares about. Getting onside with them requires refocusing what IT does to how those metrics change.

Reimagining IT sounds simple, and in the confines of a 1,000 work blog post it does. But that is the beauty of re-imagination as all you are looking to do is change a few things, the plot, the characters, the situation etc.  A few changes creates new opportunities for your enterprise, IT and your people.

Let your imagination run wild.

Category: 2011  cio  innovation  it-governance  leadership  management  re-imagine-it  strategic-planning  strategy  

Tags: 2011-planning  cio-leadership  it-organization  it-strategy  re-imagine-it  

Mark P. McDonald
8 years at Gartner
24 years IT industry

Mark McDonald, Ph.D., is a former group vice president and head of research in Gartner Executive Programs. He is the co-author of The Social Organization with Anthony Bradley. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on How do you Re-imagine IT?

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Gartner, Chris Forte, peter.maleh, RIchard Hall, CIOnet España and others. CIOnet España said: RT @Gartner_inc: How do you Re-imagine IT? Mark McDonald, #Gartner, on his blog. #GartnerCIO #CIO […]

  2. Great post, and great reminder of the value of “beginning with the end in mind.”

    As you point out, taking the time to define the role of IT in driving key business metrics — the drivers of bottom line results — is essential to IT vision, planning, and funding. It also gives more context and meaning to the hard word done every day by IT professionals.

    Thanks again,


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