Seven SmartIT Initiatives : CIO Knows Best

The CIO’s journey is not easy. This is truer today, than ever before in the relatively short lifespan of the technology industry. The combination of economic pressures, alongside the disruptive impact of present day technology trends, makes the present time unique and particularly challenging for IT Leaders.

The last big disruption, the “DotCom” era, began rolling when the economic cycle was still peaking. The pressure was on innovation and creating competitive advantage. The economic downturn that followed in the early 2000’s put cost-efficiency on top of the CIO’s agenda. In a sense the scenario today combines these two periods.

Technology advances and maturing trends in Cloud computing, Consumerization, Mobility, Analytics and Collaboration, all combine to be disruptive, presenting an opportunity to innovate during a period when the CIO is constrained by budgets and capital flexibility. With this crowding of the CIO agenda, decoupling of IT strategy from Business strategy becomes impractical. It is no surprise that increasingly IT Leaders are being judged on their ability to connect technology investments to business impact and outcomes.

The way forward requires battles to be fought and won on many fronts. To break it down, these “battle fronts” maybe broadly classified into, what I refer to as, SmartIT Initiatives. These are discussed below, but not listed in an order of priority, and for a reason.

So, how does the CIO prioritize? Where does he/she start? My contention is that the CIO knows best! Starting with the initiative that is most critical in his/her judgement, the CIO must commence the virtuous cycle of positive business impact. Like any business initiative, it is of course critical that the SmartIT initiatives receive management commitment, specialist expertise and the operational support required to deliver on the objectives.

The initiatives link up like a jigsaw, and invariably point the way to the next set of priorities or SmartIT initiatives. This approach allows several advantages. Firstly, it is relevant to different sizes and complexity of IT, not only to large and complex IT shops. It enables a modular initial business case, keeping cost and “time to results” short. At conclusion, the CIO judges the value gained, turns attention to consolidating the gains and to “re-invest” into the next set of priorities or SmartIT initiatives.

The SmartIT Initiatives recommended are:

Optimization Drive

The services delivery model, whether in-house, in-sourced or out-sources; aggregated or distributed; needs a regular reality check through peer benchmarking, in terms of cost, service levels and productivity. This aids decision-making in several key decisions, such as structure, delivery models, service level agreements, commercial negotiations, vendor selection and management. Optimization initiatives span across the layers of infrastructure and application management, driving strategic ROI over time, while often producing competitive pricing for services.

Architecture Alignment Audit

Enterprise Architecture is a must for any organization undergoing change, and change is a constant. To effectively align technology with the business drivers, this discipline is mandatory for all sizes. With technology options such as cloud, virtual desktops, analytics, mobility and collaboration, the CIO needs a framework to assess and roadmap the technology landscape, starting with any legacy and standalone systems. The pressure to enable new business models, with rapid consumerization, increasing use of smartphones and tablets, leads to enhanced data security concerns; all making for a complex landscape.

Programme & Portfolio Assessment

Staffing is expensive; knowledge is critical and productivity is paramount in ensuring optimized global programme management. Global programme management gets complex whether out-sourced or in-sourced, despite a pragmatic dashboard of KPIs and routine reviews. Assessing global programmes, using local expert interventions can make “business as usual” predictable and efficient. Likewise, a dispassionate assessment of the application portfolio, and a pragmatic life-cycle planning, can shed costs and unleash more bandwidth to innovate.

IT Governance and Relationship Improvement

Assess and drive the effective deployment of governance frameworks, such as COBIT and ITIL, to model and monitor IT processes and assets, ensuring appropriate policies and controls are in place. Critical relationships with business functions and the various components of service delivery, whether in-house, in-sourced or out-sourced, are effective and enable informed decision-making, management of risk and optimisation of value. This also works to minimize any misalignment of business and IT perspectives, the inefficiencies of short-term tactical IT deployments or unproductive use of resources and assets, and importantly the potential risks to data security and regulatory compliances.

Search for Operational Excellence

Challenge and assess the design suitability of the IT function, testing for effectiveness, efficiency and customer satisfaction, including its structure, processes, governance and diversity. There are several popular frameworks, often used in combination, such as ITIL for service delivery, CMMI for maturity across the software engineering life-cycle and COBIT for governance and risk management. Often outsourced delivery centres and in-house teams, work through connected processes, making process integration a critical link, to achieve predictability. Process wastes like rework are the prime indicator for reviewing the effectiveness of the quality assurance processes, and their adherence. The need for developing a balanced scorecard for IT is evidence alignment with business needs is often ignored.

Technology Transformation Healthcheck

Assess the effectiveness and seek out optimization scope for the presently deployed technology transformations, such as a CRM or an ERP system. With specific tools and expertise, an audit of the “state of deployment” can yield directions for better user adoption, improved outcomes, identification of training gaps, expensive yet unused customizations, and opportunity to transition to “vanilla” features from expensive customizations.

Management Support Team

The seventh and final SmartIT Initiative is the selection of a suitable IT management support team, who can work alongside the CIO in the quest for improving business outcomes. The choices available are wide, with boutique consultancies and big powerhouse consulting brands. An ideal team would be one with a combination of ground-level operations experience; specialist expertise in relevant areas; provider and user side experience; delivery track record in diverse sectors and cultures; and geographically located for ease of intervention. Obviously the team needs to be a trusted third-party completely aligned to CIOs goals, but a real advantage would be if it were dispersed and available locally in user and provider locations, allowing regular management support and interventions, to implement initiatives beyond providing independent assessments and advice.

Contributor: Navin Anand


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