In today’s age of technological advances and the desire to reduce corporate overhead (including Corporate IT department budgets), Corporate IT departments struggle to provide business solutions which either:
- Provide market differentiation compared to company/cloud peers
- Automate functions to a level where IT costs are substantially less than the labor savings they provide.
- System performance/reliability where business perception differs from IT metrics
This problem is acerbated by efforts to outsource IT functions to reduce costs. The general problem with offshore and nearshore outsourcing relates to a bigger chasm between business function and the IT teams supporting business. Globalization also plays a part in this challenge when technical solutions are not coordinated globally resulting in:
- Poor business adoption requiring more labor to perform functions which were not automated (ineffective).
- Local solutions developed which require local IT support (inefficient).
- Pockets of business which have virtually no IT solution (non-existent).
While there are plenty of Corporate IT departments which provide great service to their business partners, these localized challenges ring true for too many business functional leaders.
So, in this age of constantly evolving technology and shrinking budgets, how do Corporate IT departments solve this problem?
There are four main areas Corporate IT departments can make significant inroads:
- Corporate IT Governance.
- Corporate IT structure which mirrors the company’s structure.
- Standardization of IT processes.
- Aligning IT Strategy to evolving technology and business function.
Corporate IT Governance
When most people hear ‘Corporate IT Governance’, they immediately jump to traditional IT Metrics (system availability, network utilization, help-desk call resolution, annual budget process and tracking actual to annual budget). While these are good metrics, they do nothing to provide a business function or make sure solutions delivered are adopted by business.
The corporate IT Governance should be a recurring process which constantly evaluates business priorities, ensuring automated functions and projects and delivered enhancements actually meet business needs, but also exceed timeliness and availability of the entire supporting IT infrastructure.
This IT Governance process should systematically (at least quarterly, preferably monthly) provide business leaders with a list of projects/requests and the corresponding High-Level Estimate time to complete. The process needs to provide a mechanism for business to indicate the priority which will drive assignments of IT resources.
The process needs to provide business current statuses on high priority requests with estimated completion, percent completion and budget /actual comparison. Additionally, the process needs to provide business leaders with meaningful metrics on high priority system performance which align to the end-user experience.
Requirements for higher priority projects need to be agreed upon together with business. This agreement needs to be documented regardless of SDLC (Waterfall /Agile). This level of formality drives the careful consideration of business alongside IT, which increases the overall effectiveness of IT while providing business the needed automation.
By providing business with meaningful metrics, the business can prioritize infrastructure upgrades as part of the overall prioritization process.
Lastly, by constantly evaluating project/requests in terms of priority, business and IT combined are more dynamic and responsive.
Corporate IT Structure which mirrors the company’s structure
While this may seem overly simplistic, without alignment from an organizational perspective, company functional leaders are left wondering how to engage with Corporate IT. This alignment results in IT teams who concentrate on a functional area, which in turn results in IT understanding business regardless of the location of the associated IT support personnel.
Standardization of IT processes
In order for good Corporate IT Governance to work, there need to be clearly defined processes and consistent tools within IT. Many Corporate IT departments have different processes for different regions, systems or departments. Without common processes, business is forced to understand how each process works, instead of IT trying to understand how business functions.
The processes within IT need to be transparent and consistent in order to insulate the business from internal IT complexity. Additionally, by having standardization within the IT processes and functionality, the support for processes and IT Governance is efficient, and consistently understood by all IT and business people.
IT Strategy to align evolving technology to business function
IT Strategy is important from many perspectives, but mostly because it can be helpful to;
- Identify and implement new technology.
- Develop and implement standards for new technology.
- Identify systems or technology needing to be replaced.
The general challenge with IT strategy or IT-led initiatives is not the implementation of the technology itself, new technology is often implemented quite well as IT get excited about the latest and coolest technology, its the general challenge as it relates to aligning new technology with the appropriate functionality. Many technical experts suffer from the age-old analogy, “I have a hammer, everything looks like a nail”.
For IT strategy to work, a technology roadmap needs to be developed which indicates when and where each type of technology should be utilized. This allows for the business to benefit from new technology when it makes sense. Forcing technology to fit the wrong solution results in inefficient and cumbersome systems which don’t provide businesses with the best functional automation.
While none of these concepts are new, when implemented properly, Corporate IT will regain the trust of functional leaders. With trust, comes partnership, and the ability to potentially partner with functional leaders and implement technology which may differentiate the company from its peers.