Tag Archives: CIO

From Automation to Business Scope Revision

The role of IT in shaping tomorrow’s business operations is a distinctive one.  IT has become a fundamental enabler in creating and maintaining a flexible business network.  Using a framework that breaks IT-enabled business transformation into five levels, the author describes each level’s characteristics and offers guidelines for deriving maximal benefits.  He suggests that each organization first determine the level at which the benefits are in line with costs or efforts of the needed changes and then proceed to higher levels as the demands of competition and the need to deliver greater value to the customer increases.  – Venkatraman, N Sloan Management Review 1994



The Well-Placed Voice of IT at the Executive Table – the Power of WE

– By Dr. Linda Miller

Many organizations still see their IT function as non-strategic – lying somewhere on the continuum between order taker and scapegoat.   Business want to give IT some measurements and send them away to construct something that we will tweak here and there for a perfect fit… in denial about the magnitude of the complexity within the IT world and unable to grasp the meaning and value that IT brings to business and its potential as a strategic partner. 

Business and IT are working in the same boat, so why is it so hard for business and IT to capitalize on the power of WE.

As deep and complex as IT is, it offers an almost instant transformative power.  And we as IT practitioners perceive that our work appears to non-IT people as a huge piece of experimental artwork – avant-garde and wildly ungraspable.  This is actually a misconception, but conveying where the balance points of the IT creative process are, as compared to where the balance points of business command and control systems are, continues to be difficult after 50 years of trying.

We as business people are reluctant to give up control to what we instinctively perceive as a force so powerful it could consume all in its path – a justifiable fear, which would explain why real information about business strategy is often left out of conversations with IT.  Until we as business people are ready to have honest and equal fear-free dialogues with them, our IT leaders need to continue to find creative ways to work through the psychology of the situation in order to add their voice to the greater good and health of the business and its people.

As the industrial-age-minded, curmudgeons of “business” wave-away the millennium-entitled- acting-out of adolescent “IT” again and again, forward motion grinds to a halt.  And, having had the unbridled enthusiasm worn out of it in a manner not that far from the way a horse is broken, we as IT people have stopped coming up with brilliant ideas about how we can create something that will blow the socks off our business guardians with its potential – that approach has proven to be career limiting. 

We’ve not been particularly good at knowing how to direct IT potential under industrial-age business paradigms, and IT can overwhelm its audience when talking to business practitioners long-steeped in fixed and finite realms of numbers and calculations.  Most often IT still reports into the CFO as a measure of control that was put in place in the ‘80s and ‘90s to try to rationalize IT costs – but mostly to allow time for we as business people to perceive and carefully embrace and stabilize this explosive power called IT. Since the turn of the millennium, however, a balance of controlled experimentation vs. radical innovation has tipped and business risk has shifted from grappling with unfettered IT spend to dangerously low generation of business innovation.

Expressing this in terms “flow”, we as IT people cannot celebrate stasis and equilibrium with our business comrades because IT is essentially movement – that is, IT represents the movement of the business and amplifies it.  Like fashion, there is no beginning and no ultimate end-state of IT.  There is no destination point.  The point of IT is movement and flux.  So ultimately, how can a conversation between a group that values stasis and a group that is always in flux find success?  When flux is dominant stasis occurs accidentally, when stasis is dominant flux bounces around in a closed system with little productive output… sound familiar?

Metaphors aside, we as IT people have known for some time that the nature of IT is essentially different and opposing to the nature of traditional business.  Having exhausted all avenues of trying to fit in, we as IT people are left wanting for a place to put the overspill of the potential of IT. We have started to look into human connection, interaction, creation and thought for a place to lend the robustness of IT for business benefit.  But before business goes there, we as business people must break down and break through traditional confines that judge results more by ROI than by positioning for the future. Here is where IT shines its best light – and also where the impetus for business transformation is – shifting trajectory to where future success now lies.

So, the place of the voice of IT has become the sum of what it was in the ‘90s – offering solutions to stated business problems and designing couture systems and software to assist the bottom line – plus a “new-millennium” role as illuminating the path business takes to position and reposition itself at the right speed. We as IT people have the rapid-fire-change, transformation-through-uncertainty competency the rest of the organization is looking for.  Building the unified path is a new and daunting piece of work we must approach together.

As we as IT people sigh deeply about digging into the next round with business, weary from decades of repression, we also look to knowledge capital management and business intelligence as playgrounds to exercise within – a chance to take longer strides at least, as we run the perimeter of our cage.

As we as business people sigh deeply about surrendering more control and waiving a white flag to IT, we swallow a chunk of pride and lift our gaze to the human connection part of the business equation as a way to share the burden that comes with the demand for agility – it takes many minds to turn the school of fish in unison.

It’s becoming obvious that IT and business are finding common ground in collaboration enablement, and value network.  For this common ground to be a lasting connection point requires moving conversations about change and transformation away from being expressed in a language of sameness and a celebration of conformity achievement (risk), and toward expressing them in a language of dynamic multi-purposefulness and the intrinsic indeterminacy of the learning journey (reward). That is, sharing the common ground requires a reordering of thought from hierarchies, taxonomies, separateness and self-contained-ness toward group genius and innovation for the sake of innovation, in full knowing that what is created will inevitably benefit the business, it’s a matter of deciding where and how to apply it.

And that is a conversation we can all have.

Transformative Change – It’s Bigger Than You Think

Dr. Linda Miller’s latest article in Government CIO Magazine talks about how approach communicating that a transformative effort is approaching.  It highlights the primary elephants in the room to recognize to retain audience attention and avoid the “you’ve got to be kidding” response.

Communicating clearly and in realistic terms from the get-go is critical to opening the pathway for transformative change and avoiding the paralysis of disbelief and starting the wheels of innate wisdom turning.

Government CIO Magazine


Defining IT in Business Terms

Beyond being table stakes for doing business at all, the strategic position of IT has expanded from being an enabler of business process and a toolset for productivity, to being a meeting place for thoughts, a collection point for corporate wisdom, and a connection maker for customers and staff.  One could say that IT is as fundamental to the organization as having a staff to do work and a place to do business. This puts a new spin on business risk and business value definition that boards and executives are still catching up with.

IT as a Resource

The Process-People-Technology construct that was a rudder through the late ‘90s and into the first decade of the new millennium comes under scrutiny in the light of an emerging business definition of IT, and today, it looks more like…

People & Technology     >     Process & Project   >    Product

( Resources )          ( Creation Vehicle )

People and Information technology must be kept in sync in order to be applied optimally as resources, through corporate processes and projects, to produce the products the company sells.  This synchronization has proved difficult to do, particularly with the speed of change escalating year over year.

When we think of IT as a resource that needs to be understood and developed and applied just like people, the risk management picture changes and IT starts to be regarded as something to be acquired, like talent – get the best there is for the money available, and considering the organizational capability maturity that will apply it. Also, the opportunity costs of not maturing existing IT are the same as the opportunity costs of not maturing people to meet marketplace demands.

IT as a Location

Comparisons between outdated skillsets and outdated IT hardware and software aside, the business definition of IT can be expected to continue to evolve toward a point where it replaces brick and mortar as the place where business is conducted.

The IT place-of-business houses the knowledge capital of the organization, and is a connection maker between physical locations and people, providing a meeting place for dialogue, collaboration, and creation of new thought.  IT leverages business reach and removes physical barriers to conducting business and to consuming and applying human abilities.

Many organizations already categorize hardware IT with physical facilities when it comes to managing risk, but software that connects people should be included, thereby keeping all aspects of the IT place of business synchronized.

Leadership Commitment

IT is and extension of place and an extension of people.

Understanding corporate IT well enough to change how it behaves is as complex and painstaking a piece of work as understanding staff sufficiently to change their behaviour to meet business challenges.  To express this in terms of risk: if not understood, valued and purpose-synchronized neither your IT nor your people can achieve the necessary magnitude and frequency of change for transformation to occur or to maintain the right level of agility to remain viable.

In accepting this reality, corporate leaders must evaluate and retune their strategic and ‘good-governance’ commitments systems, software, networks and IT architecture to the same depth and breadth as the commitment they make to their people and their physical locations.