Asking CIOs to deliver a more business-centric IT function is not a new idea. For years, leading CIOs, technology magazines, advisory firms and others have all been making the case. CIOs themselves are hardly opposed to the concept – senior executives want to know that their role is contributing to the wider improvement of their business. But why is business-centric IT becoming even more important in the era of cloud computing?
It’s evident that the way enterprise software has been sold and implemented is coming to an end. The days of business giving IT its requirements and IT selecting and developing the tools are over. Instead, cloud services are sold directly to the business by very capable people who combine business knowledge with the latest technology competencies and who, to make it even trickier, are also marketing-savvy. Hence, cloud services vendors explaining IT in plain and easy-to-understand business language. Obviously implemented in agile mode, some cloud vendors have even figured out how to measure business adoption as the real KPI after go-live. The introduction of very specialized apps readily available on the vendor app stores are adding to the perception of shop, run and drive business results.
Why bother from an overall company perspective? Does it matter where your critical capabilities are defined and implemented? Do we need IT enterprise architecture if everything is “plug and play”? Do we need business process management, master data management and IT governance as archetypes of stifle enterprise IT anachronisms? Why not let the business liberate itself through the cloud to morph into what it wants to become? Well, you all know the answer. …but do we?
If we see enterprise IT only as the vehicle to transfer a requirement into a solution, we do not become obsolete but, rightly so, an afterthought. An afterthought that looks as if everything is compliant, integrated, running and efficient. This would be OK in industries where information and knowledge isn’t a key differentiator but, with most of our business moving into the digital sphere, that’s just not enough. Enterprise IT has to become stronger in co-creating the business future. What capabilities do we need to provide to our actual customers, i.e. the company’s customers, especially as many of them have at least a “digital touch”? Doing this predominantly from a technology angle alone doesn’t work.
There are many steps needed to get there, but today, I want to concentrate on a behavioral aspect for enterprise IT that I strongly believe in: business centricity cannot be declared, it has to be owned by the entire IT function and by each of our IT employees in varying degrees.
It starts with a genuine expression of interest in our business, taking proactive actions to increase our collective business knowledge as an IT function – not just at the top, but throughout the entire IT function – and ultimately by living up to our accountabilityfor the business outcomes of IT investments. Delivering quality solutions on time and in budget isn’t easy, but it’s not a reason not to give up either.
In a follow-up post, I’ll take a deeper look at how you can assess the business centricity of your IT function. For now, here’s a question for you: how much does the future of your team depend on its business centricity, and do you sleep easy with the potential of a gap?