Digital transformation is supposed to usher in a new era for business IT based on collaboration, pragmatism and delivering value. James West fears that organisations are just paying lip service to digital transformation while retaining their focus on the wrong things.
Two-thirds of organisations have no “formal digital transformation strategy in place” and are failing in their efforts to achieve business-IT alignment. Yet according to the same report from 451Research, we’re entering a “New IT World Order” because 60% of organisations are planning to make use of “offpremise IT” by 2019.
Call me pessimistic, but enterprises making use of offsite IT is less “new world order” and more “business as usual”. This isn’t revolutionary, this is businesses shuffling the technology deck, calling it revolutionary and hoping no one will notice.
The problem with business IT is not the technology itself, or indeed, how it is sourced. The reason why we’re STILL talking about IT/business alignment and scratching our heads as we ponder why “IT value” remains an oxymoron is that IT teams continue to focus on technology because it’s easier than dealing with the real problems.
This isn’t revolutionary, this is businesses shuffling the technology deck, calling it revolutionary and hoping no one will notice.
What are those problems? They are numerous and obvious: improving communication between IT services and the business teams which use them. Better planning and feedback mechanisms to ensure services are worthwhile and meeting requirements. Less emphasis on technology and a greater focus on relationships. Note: none of these points mention the technology itself or how it is provisioned. Technology in isolation is not the solution, it’s part of the problem because it gets in the way of communication.
Why do IT professionals prioritise technology? Simply put: it enables them to stay in their comfort zone.
What should IT be doing
- Asking for feedback from the business – and acting on it
- Nurturing relationships with stakeholders and business unit heads
- Proactively seeking ways to harness technology to improve working practices
What IT is doing
- Trying to improve SLAs that have little bearing on business performance
- Looking for external suppliers who can take away workload and trim IT delivery costs
- Reactively fix IT problems
You’ll note that the first three bullet points are much harder to do AND take IT professionals out of their comfort zone.
Is this laziness? Yes, there will naturally be cases where IT professionals would prefer to stay on the path of least resistance, but the business needs to be accountable too. If IT is being asked to deliver against legacy SLAs and there’s no incentive to focus on new goals, then change is unachievable. There needs to be a concerted effort, from IT heads and business leaders, to change the agenda. And if IT needs more time and resource to deliver what it SHOULD be doing in preference to continuing on the current path, then it’s the responsibility of IT to explain this and make a case to the business.
Let’s be clear: improving the quality of business IT is much harder than maintaining the status quo. But if the business wants change, it must support change. Otherwise, we’ll still be talking about different methods for sourcing and delivering IT ten years down the line.