April 25, 2011

Turning IT From Frenemy to Friend

Fast Company (December 2008) describes Frenemies as a "thrilling intricate dance" of friend-enemy relationships.

Half a year later, CBS News (July 2009) reports that this words is added to the dictionary: "Frenemy--someone who pretends to be a friend, but is really an enemy."

Recently, I've heard the term applied to Information Technology, as in they they here to help (i.e. friend-like), but boy are they often an obstacle as well (i.e. enemy-like).

Obviously not the message any IT executive wants to hear about their folk's customer service and delivery!

Today, the Wall Street Journal (25 April 2011) writes about the "discontent with the [IT] status quo" and it calls somewhat drastically to "Get IT out of the IT department."


Based on responses from business and IT leaders, here are some of the key reasons:

- "IT is seen as overly bureaucratic and control-oriented" (51% business and 37% IT)
- "IT doesn't deliver on time" (44% business and 49% IT)
- "IT products and services doesn't meet the needs of the business" (39% business and 29% IT)
- "IT consists of technologists, not business leaders" (60% business and 46% IT)

Therefore, the WSJ states "both for competitive and technological reasons...business unit leaders need to start assuming more control over the IT assets that fuel their individual businesses."

This is being called "Innovative IT"--where "IT shifts to more of a support role. IT empowers business unit self-sufficiency by providing education, coaching, tools, and rules, which allow for individuals to meet their needs in a way that protects the overall need of the enterprise."

The result is rather than delivering IT to the business, we deliver IT "through the business."

In this model, there is an emphasis on partnership between the business and IT, where:

- IT provides services to the business (i.e. through a service-oriented architecture of capabilities)--systems, applications, products, tools, infrastructure, planning, governance, security, and more.
- The business exploits these services as needed, and they innovate by "dreaming up ideas, developing prototypes, and piloting changes" that will most impact on-the-ground performance.

I believe this is consistent with stage 4 (the highest) of architecture maturity--called Business Modularity--as described by Ross, Weill and Robertson in Enterprise Architecture As Strategy: In this stage, we "grant business unit managers greater discretion in the design of front-end processes, which they can individually build or buy as modules connected to core data and backend processes. In effect,managers get the freedom to bolt functionality onto the optimized core." The result is a "platform of innovation...[that] enables local experiments, and the best ones spread throughout the company."

Related to this are interviews in the WSJ today with 3 CIOs, that all bear out this IT leadership direction:

- Frank Wander (Guardian Life Insurance)--"We have IT embedded into each business and we have a seat at the table. We're partners."
- Norm Fjeldheim (Qualcomm)--"We're structured exactly the same way Frank is. IT is embedded in the business. I'm only responsible for about half the IT budget."
- Filippo Passrini (Proctor & Gamble)--"Our business partners are people outside IT....in the past we were always in 'push' mode...now...there is a lot of 'pull'."

So one of the goals of IT and business is to transform from a relationship of frenemies to friends and genuine partners; this will leverage the strengths of each--the expertise of our technology professionals and the customer insights and agility of our business people.


No comments: