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The big when for IT is now

by Mark P. McDonald  |  March 22, 2011  |  3 Comments

For the first time in nearly 10 years IT has the ability to use technology change to reposition itself and its role in the enterprise.  The existence of light weight technologies such as social media, cloud, etc. give IT the potential to slip the bonds that have been holding it back and keeping it in the back office.  Leading CIOs have already started to redefine their role and the value of IT resources away from a focus on provisioning and operating technologies and toward applying information and technology to create value.

Now you can say, so what.  After all, the notion that IT needs to create value is about as old at IT itself.  Your right, but the prior argument always contained a conditional statement — when.

  • When we have automated business processes, then IT will be free to create greater value
  • When we have integrated those automated processes, then IT will be free to create greater value
  • When we have moved those integrated and automated processes to the web, then IT will be free to create value

And lately the big ‘when’ has been:

When IT is able to redirect more funding from maintenance to innovation, then IT will be free to create greater value.

Well that last when is happening and will happen over the next two to five years.

Yes that’s right, the transition will happen within most current CIOs tenure — that is if they lead to make it happen.

So why is this time any different?  After all there have been other ‘liberating technologies’ in the past:  Client Server, the Internet, Outsourcing, SOA, BI, etc.

Well I believe, and I emphasis believe, that lighter weight technologies will liberate IT for a few simple reasons:

First, lighter weight technologies change the economics of IT, reducing the need to invest now and hope for results latter.  These technologies, the cloud, virtualization, etc., open the door for companies to gain some of the efficiencies of scale without having to scale themselves.  The result is freeing up money previously locked into the 70% of IT committed spend for innovation and new solutions.   Money, which if applied to lightweight technologies such as mobility or social media will go even farther.

Second, lighter weight technologies are things that the business is interested in, things that they can and will do for themselves rather than defer to IT.  With the exception of the Internet, prior ‘liberating technologies’ were the sole domain of the IT organization.  This meant that the business could compartmentalize them into IT and forget about them.  Not so with mobility, social media, Software as a Service and other lightweight technologies.  The resulting creation of business choice will demand CIOs react and reform IT.

Next, the business is looking for new ways to grow and that means creating new solutions, particular for attacking adjacent markets and geographic expansion.  The business cannot extend its reach without IT, nor can it readily translate product capabilities and service capacities without new or revised solutions.  Connecting innovation with growth is something that CIOs will have to do.

Finally, the strategic importance of IT has shifted, it’s no longer about can it run or will it run – those are now givens.  Rather it is about what will be different, what will be of value, how will things support our uniqueness in the marketplace and with our customers.  CIOs who continue to invest in and think of IT’s value as being weighted the same way as their budget – towards operations maintain a mindset that will keep IT in the back office, a commodity cost and open for disruption.

The big WHEN for IT is now and leaders are already taking advantage or planning to take advantage of lighter weight technologies and the opportunity to apply them in the context of growth, innovation and strategic relevance.

Category: 2011  leadership  management  re-imagine-it  strategic-planning  

Tags: 2011-planning  cio-leadership  cio-strategy  it-leadership  reimagine-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 The big when for IT is now

  1. Mark Brewer says:

    I agree that the time is now for change and for more speed and for lighter weight solutions. You post is spot on.


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