Transformation of the IT Department must include a team pivot to competitive high value activities, not puttering around in the keep-the-lights-on (KTLO) commodity tasks.
Said another way, there needs to be a new perspective from which IT views its worth and mission and their collective activities need to be urgently focused on actions that support that value. Through this lens IT will be deemed relevant (or not) by its ability to enable customer satisfaction, and measured by market-share, increased revenue and greater growth.
What I am suggesting is that IT has to think a little like Sales!
In a 2015, the Institute for Digital Transformation participated into a research project to undercover the truth behind the Digital and IT Transformation Hype. One of the findings was a definition: “Digital Transformation” targets optimizing business or organizational effectiveness via digital investments and IT services. “IT Transformation” is directed at optimizing IT performance to more effectively address business or organizational needs and outcomes.
Based on these definitions, ask yourself “Are you really conducting digital transformation projects?”
What we know for sure is that nothing in IT can stay the same as it was before. The business pressure for this change is driven by the elevated, integrated, and self-focused customer experience our customers are demanding. Digital transformation efforts are rooted in change and while this may sound obvious, the road-map to IT transformation itself can be anything but “obvious.” Success measures for the transformation can therefore, be harder to pinpoint.
For IT, where maintaining back-end systems reliably and consistently was once a mark of excellence of the IT department, it is no longer a viable KPI. Reliable and consistent delivery of services for applications such as ERPs, HR systems, CRMs, and email, to name a few, is just expected and not directly meaningful to the customer-focused view. We have to set new targets and then measure ourselves in a completely different way.
Sharpen the Focus
Start with a hard look at where our IT teams tend to put their attention. It is fair to say that many of us technical types are intrigued by the sparkle of the latest shiny object. Meaning, when there is a new technology we want to try it, touch it, and convince everyone around us that this new “thing” is THE ANSWER. Then, we want to deploy it and convince the business afterwards that this new “thing” is going to make their life better. Sound familiar?
That inward out thinking just does not fit the customer-engaged and fast to market world in which we now are immersed. We have to stop pretending technologies are part of our toy box and refocus instead, on why the IT department exists in the first place.
IT exists to enable the business. Period.
We Exist for the Business
In conversation recently with a forward-leaning executive I know, he put a spin on the meaning of employee and team value that I had not considered before. He said each of your employee’s job descriptions should be comprised of “2-3 high value activities, that’s it.” He went on to explain that you need to key on why the job was created in the first place; think about the problem that job was designed to solve and zero-in on those few activities.
His point was that everything else you busy yourself with is actually “low value” and an employee will fail in realizing personal success and fail in helping the company grow if they get caught in the vortex of every day busy-work and not making those 2-3 high value activities the north star.
Let’s take that same thinking and turn it to the IT department. What are those 2-3 high value functions the team needs to accomplish? Why does the IT department exist in the company at all?
With SaaS, IaaS, PaaS and every other “as-a-service” service emerging to handle commoditized IT functions today, what specific value does the IT team deliver?
We Exist for the Customers
IT needs to shift focus to enabling the delivery of customer-engaged products and services, not KTLO. This is a re-working of the core model of where and how the IT team expends their time and energy. The transformation is shedding low value tasks and pointing the combined IT team on the high value activities that enable the business to succeed.
The framework must be prescribed by IT solutions that map to the business priorities, which are rooted in the products and services your customers are demanding; therein lies the IT value!
We Are All Part of Sales
Think about the north star of the Sales team. They exist to generate market share, revenue, and growth. It easy to see how the Sales team s valuable to the company because they have a direct impact on the business’ bottom line. The transformed IT department should also have a direct impact on the business’ bottom line.
Your transformation goals should be far more than taking legacy applications and re-working them into web-enabled apps. It requires a re-look at everything your team manages and does and setting measurements for success that support the company’s financials.
This may require a handing-off of a portion of back-end services. Get your IT team talking about market share, revenue and growth. Get the team talking about the high value activities that align with supporting that growth, and turn your collective team into an engine that supports 2-3 key activities that will drive the business’ growth goals. Shed the KLTO tasks.
This perspective will help get the team out of the technology toy box and instead, mature the solutions they suggest into business enabling innovations that delight the customer and provide growth opportunities for your company.
The Sales deputy badges are in the mail and headed your way!
About the Author:
With over 20 years of experience in leadership roles in the technology industry, Ms. Carroll is recognized as an executive who develops and articulates vision and solutions from both technical and business perspectives. She has an established history of building a culture of collaboration, trust, and respect among IT and the business. A speaker on the topics of digital transformation, cloud computing, IT utility adoption, and team culture, she has been published in CIOInsight and BizTech magazine, and was named a 2010 Computer World Premier 100 IT Leader. She is committed to sharing, listening, challenging, and shaping the discussion around transformational business success.
Currently Ms. Carroll serves as the VP, Customer Success & Lifecycle at TenFour, a NJ headquartered IT Infrastructure Utility Provider. In this role, she leverages her industry expertise to provide insight and guidance to enterprise business executives to facilitate digital transformation and business value realization. She is responsible for creating a differentiated customer experience across the breadth of TenFour’s client portfolio, focused on the customer’s business priorities and outstanding service delivery. Prior to joining TenFour, Ms. Carroll had a noteworthy tenure in a variety of senior IT Leadership positions at the United States Golf Association, most recently as the Managing Director for Information Technology where she led the infrastructure, business resilience, security, operations, and development disciplines.