Sunday, October 21, 2012

Top 4 Principles for IT Leaders to focus on

Experts predict that IT Leadership is taking a hit as the business is not happy with the value that IT delivers. The emergence of Cloud and SaaS based Applications have made the business leaders to think that they can get the needed IT support as services, though they are unaware of the issues or challenges with that idea. But this has certainly made the IT leaders to think and do a self-assessment in terms the focus area and the value delivery. Here are the four principles that may help IT leaders to continue delivering value to the business and thereby ensuring their very existence.


Embrace the Business Change

In today’s competitive world, Businesses need to revisit their vision, mission and strategies too often than they did in the past. This most of the times will call for change to the people, process and technology and depending on the priorities, such change may have to happen too soon. IT traditionally has been resisting changes, though with Agile and other approaches, Changes are welcome, but due to various other factors like the maintainability of the systems, cost of change etc, the IT is finding it a challenge to embrace such changes. This is why business leaders are trying to explore options to minimize their dependence on their own IT, so that they can move on with the desired changes quicker and reap the benefits of the change.

For IT leaders, embracing change is a challenge as most of them are still living with legacy systems which have very poor characteristics in terms of scalability and maintainability. The IT leaders should find ways to overcome these barriers and should be willing and ready to support business changes. The solutions include, revisiting their application design principles with a view to ensure that all their current and future custom applications are Service Oriented and are highly scalable, maintainable and performing. For other legacy systems, explore options to service enable them using appropriate tools and technologies, without changing systems themselves.


Focus on Value Delivery

Though traditionally IT has been a cost centre, most IT leaders have shown interest in treating IT as a profit centre. Most IT investments, though are evaluated in terms of the return (value) that this investment brings back, this is not monitored throughout its execution. Ideally, the focus on value should not be lost during the execution phase. This is true as the discoveries or problems encountered as the project execution progress may have a significant impact on the perceived value and in such cases, it would be wiser to take call to fail the project and call off further investment without waiting for the end result.

When something is offered for free, everyone will want it whether irrespective of there being a real use for it. Similarly, applying the 80/20 rule, 80% of the business functions are likely consume only 20% of the IT services. There need to be a method or process to keep accounting the service offerings and identify the 20% of services and prioritize the support for these services in terms of taking up changes around these and delivering them faster than expected by the business.

Bringing in a culture (at the least within the IT function) wherein the need for focus on value delivery is well understood and demonstrated by all would certainly help achieve greater benefits overall. Every member should know and be aware of the expected business value of every project or sub projects and that they are associated with and should take pride in ensuring that their actions in fact result in the business enjoying the perceived value.

IT Leaders should devise suitable process or systems which will help measure everything and use it in turn to calculate and publish the metrics or statistics around the business value delivered by different projects or investments. IT Governance frameworks like COBIT can help achieving this.


Communicate & Collaborate

IT leaders normally express their point of view technically, which the business users or leaders may not get it right and eventually the value proposition might not be understood well. This is where IT leaders should start putting across their proposals or point of views in a way that make sense to the business leaders. While the converse is also true that while Business leaders talk about business changes, IT leaders find it difficult to understand, which IT leaders should overcome. IT is important that the IT Leaders and the most part for their team should be willing to acquire the required business skills and should demonstrate the same in their communication and deliveries.

Similarly, it is important for the IT leaders to collaborate with the business proposals and get involved right from the initial stages, so that they are able to get to know the business requirements and priorities better and at the same time present them back with the various risks and caveats that related tools and technology that enables this change may bring in for them to manage.


Talent Development

With the technology landscape changing rapidly, and the business leaders are looking for such enabling technologies to gain competitive advantage or to improve the efficiencies at various levels, the IT team has a pressing need to cope up with such needs. This is where, IT leaders should now look for people with multiple technical and business skills and with the willingness and ability to learn newer technology and business skills faster. This should be best achieved through mentoring and not by force.

IT leaders together with the HR leaders should also provide the employees an environment, which is conducive to develop the abilities of the employees. The organization culture should also envision the need for continuous learning and devise a system to measure and monitor the efforts spent in learning. For instance, depending on the role, the employees may be asked to log certain number of learning hours in a year on specified technical and business areas.

The IT leaders should also be continuously learning and stay on top of the technology trends, so that they can identify the right technology and tools that can improve the service capabilities of the business functions and in turn could give competitive advantage.



Right strategies around these four areas would certainly help IT leaders stay focussed in the business benefits and in turn demonstrate measurable value on IT investments.