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 provided.
- System performance/reliability where business perception differs from IT metrics
This problem is acerbated by efforts to move IT functions to low-cost countries to reduce costs. The general problem with offshore and nearshore 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 with business resulting in:
- Poor business adoption which requires 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 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
- IT Strategy align evolving technology to business function
Corporate IT Governance
When most hear Corporate IT Governance, people immediately jump to traditional IT Metrics (system availability, network utilization, help desk call resolution) as well as annual budget process and tracking actual to annual budget. While these are good measures, they do nothing to provide a business function or make sure solutions delivered are adopted by business. The corporate IT Governance needs to be a recurring process which is constantly evaluating business priorities and ensuring projects and enhancements delivered meet business needs first and foremost from automating functions, but also from a standpoint of timeliness and availability of the entire supporting IT infrastructure.
This process should systematically (at least quarterly, preferably monthly) provide business leaders with a list of projects/requests and the corresponding High-Level Estimate to complete. The process needs to provide a mechanism for business to indicate priority which will drive assignment 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.
Scope/requirements for higher priority projects/requests need to be agreed together with business. This agreement needs to be documented regardless of SDLC (Waterfall / Agile). This level of formality drives the careful consideration of business together with IT which will increase the overall effectiveness of IT providing business 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 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. Additionally, this alignment results in IT teams which concentrate on a functional area, which in turn results in IT understanding business regardless of the location of associated IT support personnel.
Standardization of IT processes
In order for good Corporate IT Governance to work, there needs to be consistent tools and processes within IT. Many Corporate IT departments have different processes for different regions, systems or departments with IT. 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 of IT processes, the support for processes and IT Governance is efficient and consistently understood by all IT and business people.
IT Strategy align evolving technology to business function
IT Strategy is important from many perspectives, but mostly for:
- Identifying and implementing new technology
- Developing/implementing standards for technology
- Identifying systems/technology which needs to be replaced
The general challenge with IT strategy or many IT-led initiatives is not the implementation of the technology. New technology is often implemented quite well as IT get excited about the latest / coolest technology. The general challenge 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. Force fitting technology to the wrong solution results in inefficient and clunky systems which do not provide business 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.