Technology is moving at such a rapid pace; a pace IT practitioners often struggle to keep up with, let alone IT consumers. And it is undeniably only going to get faster, bigger and more complex; stretching and challenging traditionally shaped IT functions. IT functions’ business knowledge, once perhaps vaguely disputed, is now undeniable. Organisations are demanding more, of more commercially aligned IT professionals. Resilience and diversity have become the cornerstones of many high performing organisations.
All businesses need IT to run, and to run faster. Faster, higher, stronger.
So how do good IT functions manage this ever increasing demand and pace, amidst a frantically changing landscape of possibilities, in a rapidly moving global market, with quickly evolving consumer expectations and maturing business aspirations, often with legacy system considerations?
Imagine The Opposite
If we could describe the best IT organisation to deliver and excel, we’d use words like agile, flexible, focused, innovative, efficient, commercially astute, comfortable with ambiguity and engaging. We would characterise the culture as optimistic without bias, positive, enjoyable, interesting, fun and exciting.
We certainly wouldn’t use words the opposite of those above, such as slow, rigid, irrelevant, disconnected, unsatisfying, draining, and exhausting. And yet these words are still used to describe some IT functions; functions generally managed through “command and control” (and constant top-down checking), organised in IT relevant/related structures.
There are lots of ways for IT functions to deliver great business or commercial value. In my view it is most successfully and enjoyably delivered through a positively empowered organisation.
Decision making, resourcing, authority and engagement; all placed without dispute, and with complete confidence, into the hands of those who are best positioned to determine and deliver. Low value and slow hierarchies be damned.
This is not an abdication of a CIO or leader’s accountabilities. It is simply positively exploiting the skills and attributes of the people who are most qualified, or have been so entrusted. This approach requires only a faith in people’s abilities, and proactive support (coaching, training & resourcing) to best enable their success. It only works by respecting roles and trusting people; the same as in high performing sporting teams. Perfect.
A key part of ensuring the success of an empowered organisation is shared/team clarity. Clarity of vision, direction, methods, principles and culture. And this relies upon a foundation of trust, honesty and respect: people and culture. Easily lived if it’s a core value, and just as easily betrayed if not.
The Service Organisation
When I hear “agile” I think of nimbleness and speed to react, not a programming or project methodology.
When I hear “architecture” I think of a business aligned and prioritised IT function, not technical compliance.
And when I hear “services” I think of bundled business relevant activities, not an IT Service Management technology structure. Business Services (systems and processes) clustered in business aligned Domains. Services that are described by their commercial value and relevance, led by empowered business/IT leaders, positively exploiting their value. Services delivering continuous improvement.
Business/Service leaders that are accountable for Run, Build (BAU) and Transform (Project) activities, accountable for budgets, SLAs, innovation, people, external resourcing and contracts; for all systems and processes within a Service.
Service and Domain Managers lead, move, deliver and adjust at a pace that is not possible in traditional IT organisations.
The Conversation Changes
Often these Service Managers know as much as their business colleagues about the business services they deliver. An empowered organisation of Service Leaders, working at different paces, but all accelerating in the same direction (via frameworks, architecture, dependencies and principles). All aligned across the various Business/IT Domains, and appropriately pragmatic or disciplined in their approaches.
In my experience these fabulous people, working in wonderful teams, deliver great outcomes with astonishing agility. They are scrupulous; discussing the value of investments, rather than IT costs. They strive to commoditise what they can, in order to fund differentiation. They deliver positively challenging places to work, and grow together throughout the delivery of their roadmaps.
This empowered Service organisation changes the conversation completely.
Faster, higher, stronger.