Transform Your IT Group If You Want To Innovate

I’ve chatted before in my podcasts about the changing nature of IT groups within companies and thought I’d write a brief post about this emerging and important trend.  Too often, I still find within organizations that IT resources are being purposefully kept as merely “break fix” resources, distant from the realities of the business and intentionally act as blockers rather than enablers to the business.  Those organizations allow the IT leadership to perpetuate an older paradigm of IT where they were gatekeepers of technology rather than business partners within the organization, thought police rather than thought leaders.

This dated model of IT has been radically (and thankfully) changing within companies today where IT is viewed as a strategic asset rather than a necessary evil.  Progressive IT leaders work hard to make their IT resources champions of innovation within organizations to ensure that business goals and objectives can be supported.  We’ve all heard about the “consumerization of IT” – the idea that consumer technology (like iPads) is being brought into organizations and is driving what IT needs to support.  This is true, but there is another exciting aspect to this trend.  That is the “technifying of consumers“!

By technifying of consumers I mean this, that our end users in organizations are more sophisticated than they were before.  They are more technical from the point of view that they leverage technology in numerous ways outside the organization.  My strategic approach has always been to learn from my clients or the organization I’ve joined with regard to their business.  The end user is always going to know more about the business than an IT person. The end user is the subject matter expert and now that they’ve been technified, as an IT leader I have this wonderful opportunity to recruit them into the strategic IT planning cycle.  Today’s end users will brainstorm great ideas to how different technology can be used to enhance their business.  That is a fantastic paradigm as it sets up progressive organizations to realize exponential value from IT.

To capitalize on this trend, however, IT leaders need to transform their IT group.  You have to create an inviting space for end-users to come to so that they can bring those ideas to the IT team.  You also have to evaluate and change your IT processes and procedures so that they are more enabling.  Rather than being threatened by end-users and their technology requests, progressive IT teams should be welcoming and look for ways to enable those ideas, not block them.  I find it frustrating when inside an organization and I see IT teams hiding behind corporate IT rules (often cloaked under the need for security) so that they can effectively block any good ideas that come from within.  Too often companies look to transform their IT groups by simply offshoring the support function for tier one support and having a bunch of runners to handle break fix issues.  Sure this reduces costs but does it allow for innovation.  In my experience the answer is no.

Instead of embracing that model, or being stuck in the old “IT-against-the-company” paradigm, begin the process to truly change your IT team from “break-fix” people, to thought leaders & enablers.  Carry out a strategic organizational redesign where you look to support the people in your company, not just the hardware in your data centre.  Done correctly, this new paradigm will unlock untold potential for innovation, yield efficiencies in your business and ultimately give you a greater competitive advantage in the market.

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About miannipalarchio

A strategist and technologist always looking at ways that technology can enhance businesses and personal. A long time blogger who likes to share what he tests in the real world.

Posted on December 20, 2011, in Business & Technology, Strategy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Great piece. We use to have a great IT group. Things were efficient. Now we’ve reverted back to the older model you’ve described and all we have are deficiencies! Sad!

  2. This is awesome! We used mip to help use change our IT approach. Gave us results almost immediately. Our IT area is now like a cross between a Starbucks and an Apple Genius Bar. Our end users are thrilled and my IT has a new purpose!

  3. Forwarded this on to our CEO and CFO. Well said!!

  4. This is a good post. Wish our new IT was more like our old IT that worked so well before. It’s like you’ve described here. Stuck in the past!

  5. Couldn’t agree more mip! Really liked the ideas in this post. Problem is when you have stubborn IT leaders who spread fear and doubt to senior management and shutdown any meaningful discussion of change.

  6. Maybe you can help us get off Lotus Notes!

  7. Great post! What’s the approach to affect this kind of change? Enjoy your blog a lot.

  8. Right concept but the question is how to do it? Especially in a large organization that does have all the buerracratic nonsense that seems to bog down any IT innovation. Have you made changes in large orgs or is it more of a mid market phenomenon? Look forward to reading more.

  9. I think that some IT groups are scared to be overwhelmed by demands and maybe are. In addition they are considered a overhead or cost. IT is either considered a pain in the ass, a barrier to rapid change, or ………

    I also wonder when IT is outsourced what is the effect of that on your paradigm?

    • Thanks for the input Jim. You are correct. IT groups are often scared to take the risk as you’ve pointed out. That’s why they need progressive leadership to allow them to transform. As well, there are often ways to turn you IT groups into a hybrid model so that they aren’t just a cost-centre. I’ve done that with groups a couple of times and it is amazing how it changes the internal mindset.

      You are right as well re: the outsourcing…if you ship your IT support offshore then you do gain cost efficiencies, but you’ve also ceded that ability to leverage that group to innovate. An outsourced IT team is purely operational. Not that that is always a wrong thing, in some situations, it makes perfect sense. What’s important is not to outsource core systems (ie. things that differentiate the way you deliver a product or service) whereas non-core systems (ie. email, file storage) can easily be outsourced without disadvantaging your long term strategic potential.

      Hope you are enjoying the holidays!

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