“In today’s world, IT is business and business is IT. Organizations that continue to organizationally and conceptually isolate the two will fall behind competitors that treat IT and business as merely different sides of the same coin.”
The statement comes from a recent report from IDG and Red Hat, “CIOs at a Technology and Cultural Crossroads.” The report examines the role of the CIO and IT in driving business innovation and competitive differentiation.
IT Must Become More Strategic
No one would argue that it’s critical for IT to ensure that IT infrastructures are solid, secure and running efficiently. But we have to stop thinking about IT as another cost center (much like we do marketing) and, instead, accept that it has the potential to add much more value to the success of the business.
The report notes that there is an understanding that business and IT must be more tightly aligned, but saying it and doing it seems to be two very different things. The reality is, according to the report, IT is more tactical and doesn’t have the time to invest in strategic thinking.
The graphic below shows the current focus for IT executives and how they would prefer to spend the bulk of their time.
So how can the CIO drive business innovation? They need to build stronger relationships with lines of business to start. Forty-percent doesn’t interact regularly with LOB peers, according to the report, and that’s a problem.
The report suggests that the best projects are those where IT and business collaborate together. And that makes a lot of sense. Collaboration ensures a common understanding of the business problem and how technology can help solve it.
Joint projects where business users and IT work together mean the challenge is looked at from both perspectives at the same time. A business challenge with an idea to resolve it isn’t simply passed over the wall for IT to select and implement a technology (or worst case, implement a technology the business told them to get). Instead, the two bring their unique views and an open mind to listen to the other. The result is a well-defined project that leverages the best thinking from both groups.
When the Business and IT Work Together
When IT executives were asked what the most common types of innovation projects IT has planned, technology iteration and evolution topped the list, followed by the automation of business processes (full list below).
CIOs Can Drive Business Transformation
Business transformation is about aligning people, process, and technology to the business strategy. It’s not a people only, or a technology only, or a process only effort. It requires a tight alignment between the business and IT to understand the opportunities and the challenges to innovate and bring real competitive differentiation.
The best CIOs can bridge the divide between the business and IT. The best CIOs are able to understand the business and can identify the right technology and infrastructure to support business requirements. In some cases, they can identify technology that streamlines and automates processes (like remediating dark content or finding sensitive information in file shares and cloud-drives where they shouldn’t be), that once in place, leave the business and their IT counterparts to work on innovation projects that lead to competitive differentiation and higher business success.
This tight relationship between IT and lines of business is something we see regularly when talking to customers and prospects. It’s rare that IT is not involved in a business challenge from the beginning, and that’s because technology is such a critical part of solving the challenges.