The Monday Morning Challenge of Smart IT

Without exception all industry sectors and corporations are seeking the means to achieve Smart IT. One which delivers effectively, within budget, continues to be relevant, impacts business outcomes positively and provides a competitive edge. This is a bit more complicated than Smart objectives, a term often used to describe Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.

The CIO’s journey is not easy, with a reluctant CFO seeking evidence of prudence and continuous efficiency improvements, before considering new technology programs, which potentially represent a genuine promise. With the pressures of the market, all nature of corporate budgets come under pressure, but none more than “functions” considered as “support” to the core business. IT does fall within this band in a few industries. However, even in sectors which are rather more directly dependent on the use of technology today, there are unrelenting pressures of effective, efficient and competitive use of technology.

There is of course an interesting view-point, which holds a lot of truth when you consider the briefest history of mankind, say, the last two decades alone. Every business is a software business or will be in the near future, as argued eloquently by David Kirkpatrick.  Increasingly the innovative use of technology will create new business models, as it has in the past two decades. It will also provide today’s “traditional” businesses either the reason to excel or collapse in the face of competition. This competition may well come from outside of who they consider as competition today. Until a dozen years ago, Amazon was considered a competitor to Barnes and Noble, not Wal-Mart!

The difficulty of course lies in balancing competing priorities – delivering the service levels for “business as usual”, at a reduced cost, while seeking competitive advantage through the use of new technology. That faster, better, cheaper as a business strategy, by itself will prove inadequate, as evidenced by the famous debacle of Kodak. Hence the need for IT to keep track and keep pace with industry competitors and cross industry practices.

IT Leaders and CIOs in enterprises are always seeking answers, living at the cusp of their own business industry and the ever-changing, young and promising, often over-promising, technology industry. While several strategies for cost reduction have been used and continue to be used CIOs, I suggest that every Monday is a fresh start. Cost savings and efficiencies achieved, while walking the tight rope of service levels and risk mitigation, are history in the next planning cycle.

The popular strategies for IT efficiency have included one or several, such as, rationalization of the application portfolio, modernization of legacy systems, outsourcing of the infrastructure, process transformations and outsourcing of applications management. Obviously each of these strategies has its implementation challenges and risks, and IT teams who achieve results are “heroes” in my view of the world. But all heroes are called upon for more battles, as the war continues.

Next week, I will examine the Seven Steps to Smart IT, a reminder list (or cheat sheet) for all IT Leaders, to examine on a regular basis the smartness of the IT they deploy and lead for their business.

                                                                                      Contributor: Navin Anand


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