Enterprise IT is lost, it has forgotten about the mouth that feeds it: the business.
All you have to do is read LinkedIn profiles for those in IT. They might mention the business, they might not. Some mention the business but only out of politeness: "ensuring the business is on board" or "Also, I have good business acumen". What!? These guys pay your salary, and customers pay theirs.
Instead of absent mentions or polite references, you need to be determined to provide the business with the best service possible, and you should be providing them a framework to validate their business ideas, to generate conversions, sales, improve customer satisfaction, or whatever their vision happens to be.
What can be done?
- Establish a common vision with the business - Align your IT vision with your business, what is it they want to achieve and how can IT be best aligned to do that? Perhaps it's getting to market quickly or building ideas on budget. These might translate into a delivery pattern where the portfolio and projects are technically and managerially optimised into smaller ones, vertical slices of architecture that enables the business to realise value quicker and with less risk. Every decision made in IT should be aligned with this common vision.
- Shorten the cycle time - I'm talking about the time between concept and customer, the time it takes to realise an idea into something the customer can validate and interact with. This needs to be shorter: it can't take years, it can't take months. Even with heavyweight corporate processes in place (ITIL, CABs and formal testing), processes need to be re-evaluated to align with the vision. My experience is that processes continue to be executed with little thought for what outcome they are achieving, often people have forgotten! Re-evaluating all processes and re-building leaner versions will shorten the time it takes to get through them. Likewise, look for opportunities to execute processes in parallel or nugatory work that can be stopped. Answer questions like:
- What is required for a CAB approval?
- Who are the stakeholders that control approvals?
- For every control gate, every approval, every testing phase, what are the mandatory/minimum outputs needed to move to the next one?
- Can the same outcomes be achieved with less work, leaner and cheaper processes?
- Does any IT need to be built at all? Can the business idea be validated without spending $100,000? Make a video, Facebook page, A/B testing, LinkedIn advertising, talk to your customers one-on-one.
- Figure out why you're still there - Apart from the above, what value are you providing to the business? This should be in the vision but one key contribution is realising business ideas with an underlying strategic technology platform that is maintainable, extensible and economic. The business can get external vendors to build their ideas, but what are they left with in terms of a platform to build from? It might be cheaper in the short term, but maintenance costs and effort might supersede in the medium to long term. Make yourself relevant.
If you're not providing a top notch service to the business, not only satisfying their demands but also providing a framework for them to validate their ideas, the chance of your department existing in the future is low. Gartner reckons, by 2017, CMOs will spend more on IT than CIOs.
At this rate I'm tempted to agree.