Attribute #3: Structured for business fusion
Transform teams for greater collaboration and innovation
Isolation is a major barrier to IT maturity. While IT exists apart from business units, it is constantly broadsided by unseen shifts in business strategy and last-minute awareness of new technology requirements.
IT leaders who are not consistently informed by business leadership can’t anticipate the impacts of upcoming changes. Consequently, the timescales that IT teams have to work within to deliver are too short to be practical and failure to capitalize on business opportunities is frequently a foregone conclusion.
Shockingly, 75% of CIOs felt that infrastructure roll-outs were the most successful type of project.3
The IT department needs to progress beyond alignment or integration and aim for structural fusion with the business it serves. IT needs to operate at the frontiers of the business.
A siloed structure isolates IT people from the business context and creates confusion around strategies and priorities. In order to serve and support the business, IT people need to be out in the business; not just engaging with other functions via meetings, but by being truly embedded in the other functions, working with them for extended periods creating solutions from the business user perspective. The break-out popularity of shadow IT, often perceived as a threat, has, in fact, shown the way: business units want closer proximity to - and greater control over - the technologies they use and the technical resources they need to support them.
IT departments need to reach out into business units, connect with pockets of shadow IT and co-locate specialist IT people within the business units they serve in order to provide advice, consulting, support and governance in a way that really works. Co-location of IT people and business people greatly reduces the transaction cost of collaboration, while the close proximity naturally breeds tight alignment between what IT people do and what the business needs.
CIOs need to embrace this decentralized model for IT, devolve control over technology decisions to a local level and trade absolute control of technology for a looser form of stewardship, governance and curation. An important principle of the agile methodology, co-location puts people with complementary skill sets together to form highly effective autonomous units that can quickly execute the right thing in the right way. Over time, IT professionals embedded in the business context become highly-focused business technology specialists, and business people become more aware of the technical issues to be considered. In the digital age, business units that are supported from within by these specialized technical resources have a major advantage over separated teams.
At the same time, the central IT component needs to maintain a helicopter view of what’s happening out in the business, to ensure local activity meshes with the global objectives, data standards and governance rules of the organization. This high level view affords central IT visibility of many of the inefficiencies and security risks that can’t be seen by IT professionals working at the coal face.
In large organizations, a big bang business strategy for implementing business-IT fusion will be too cumbersome to work, and a more phased approach is necessary. The marketing department – an area where technology has become critical to supporting digital communications, customer engagement and analytics – is an ideal point for piloting this new structure.
FIND OUT MORE: Making IT collaboration work
“ Change agents must step outside of their departments and collaborate with other functional and executive leaders to foster real change.”
Brian Solis, Altimeter4