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Apply ‘creative destruction’ to re-imagine IT

by Mark P. McDonald  |  March 18, 2011  |  7 Comments

Re-imagining IT involves changing a few fundamental assumptions and factors that reset the context of IT, its operations and contribution to the business. Re-imagining reflects the reality of the technical, business and management changes facing CIOs.  The cloud, drive for growth and need to accelerate cycle times all require keeping much of what makes IT successful, but adding a few new things to achieve new results.

Re-imagining IT involves applying creative destruction to just about every aspect of IT.  The goal of creative destruction is to destroy existing ways of working in order to free up resources, management attention and organizational energy to do new things. Through that process, creative destruction seeks to create change with little or no net additional innovation — something that every CIO recognizes they must do.

So what has to be destroyed and what needs to be put in its place.  Here are a summary of five areas that require re-imagination through creative destruction:

  • IT’s Strategic Role: which requires destroying the perception and reality of IT supporting generic business strategies and operations in order to create new sources of strategic relevance based on competitive advantage.
  • IT Organization: where you face the need to destroy technically oriented silos that tie up resources and reduce flexibility in order to create greater opportunity and dynamism.
  • IT Personnel Skills: where you need to destroy habits that delegate current operations to existing staff while supporting new projects and technologies with outsourced or contracted resources.
  • IT Processes: presents the opportunity to destroy restrictive processes, governance arrangements and management techniques that seek to protect IT from the business. These processes need to be replaced with agile approaches that concentrate on productivity and throughput.
  • IT Metrics: destroy operational and project metrics that only demonstrate that IT is doing its job and not wasting the company’s money in favor of metrics that demonstrate real business impact.

Applying creative destruction in each of these areas recognizes the need to STOP new things before we START new things.  Creative destruction is essential for re-imaging IT as the goal is to achieve new levels of performance within IT’s existing resource base.

Meeting this goal requires doing things differently not just adding different things to do.  CIOs and IT leaders may be reluctant to do this as they think that they have to support today and build for tomorrow but in reality they have to support the whole lot with new ways of working.

The need for CIOs to creatively destroy the old and renew for the future is the focus of this years CIO Leadership Forums in Phoenix next week and London in early April.

Future posts will discuss each of these areas and the rational for creative destruction.  I will post the links here and in each post.

Category: 2011  leadership  management  strategy  

Tags: 2011-planning  business-leadership  business-strategy  cio-leadership  it-strategy  re-imagine-it  strategy-and-planning  

Mark McDonald, Ph.D., is a Vice President and Fellow Emeritus in Gartner for General Managers Program.




Thoughts on Apply ‘creative destruction’ to re-imagine IT


  1. Very good points. The reality is far far from it as you well know. Today’s CIOs have too much baggage to deal with. Some of them will definitely agree and attempt to do some of the things you outline but most of them are bogged by deadweight of their current state. Incremental improvements is new status quo.

    I would add one more component to your list around redefining CIO and IT incentives and creatively tying it to actual top-line and bottom-line impact from IT initiatives. Today we are incentivized to just “do our job” as you say. If no real business value is achieved, that’s a business problem. Easy, right?

  2. Tony Kirgis says:

    “You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
    To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
    — Richard Buckminster Fuller

  3. Mark,

    Great post – we use the theme of creative destruction in the introduction of our book (Taming Change with Portfolio Management, Durbin & Doerscher, 2010; Greenleaf Book Group) to help illustrate why we must all be prepared to contend with an exponential increase in the volume of change.

    Re-imagining the role of the CIO is a perfect example of why organizations need to broaden their perspective on change management – it is not an obscure IT function, it is an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ event. As product, service and asset lifecycles continue to shrink and opportunities for change begin to surge, it is incumbent that everyone, from top-line executives to individual contributors, shares a common understanding of change and their role in the process.

    It begins with a firm grasp on the current state and actively assessing the change influences that act upon it. Then, respond with proactive initiation of change to use it as competitive advantage: purposeful destruction of the status quo and the reallocation of capacities to new directions and initiatives. Finally, there must be active measurement and management of results, as the lifecycle of change begins anew.

    Whether you use global markets or internal services as your point of reference, the cycle of change must be accepted as a continuous process that requires the involvement of many different levels and roles of an organization. With technology as such an integral component of modern business and at the forefront of so much change, it is imperative that the CIO and IT recognize, accept and seize their role as active strategic collaborators in this process, rather than just being tactical enablers or operational custodians.

  4. Peter Bakker says:

    Why limit the creative destruction and the re-imagination to IT?

  5. […] ‘creative destruction’ was onderwerp van een recente Gartner blog waar in opgeroepen werd tot het vernietigen van een aantal bestaande IT processen en denkbeelden […]

  6. […] Mark McDonald’s Post, he says, “The goal of creative destruction is to destroy existing ways of working in order to […]

  7. […] Mark McDonald’s Post, he says, “The goal of creative destruction is to destroy existing ways of working in order to […]



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