Changing Business Means Changing IT

In recent weeks, this blog has focused extensively on how changing technology has affected business and the world of business intelligence. Today, we look at how those changes have impacted IT departments and executives.

hand drawing a database layout and tableAs businesses become truly digital, they look to IT to create new products and services, not simply to enable their delivery. IT is longer expected to react to what business needs, they are expected to work alongside the organization.

Ian Cox, a former CIO-turned consultant and author, is a good source on the changing IT world. TechTarget interviewed Cox, the author of “Disrupt IT: A New Model for IT in the Digital Age.

“Rather than the hands-on, techie skills we needed in the ’90s, IT — while it’s still a technical department — [needs to] become more business-focused and to look at the IT skills required to add value to the business,” Cox told TechTarget.

The New Core Competencies

According to Cox, the new IT department has these core competencies:

• Flexible and agile architecture and design.
• Delivery management (to be more flexible and able to do things quicker)
• Data management (collection, storage, structure and accessibility of data)
• Vendor management (outsourcing things outside of core competencies)

“The rest of the business is shifting now and thinking about how it can use technology to create value and new revenue streams, new business models, and products and services and digital experiences around existing products,” Cox told TechTarget. That’s where the CIO and IT function also need to be focused.

Spending More Time Outside of IT

What does this mean for CIOs? Cox says they still need a deep understanding of technology, but perhaps not quite as much as in the past. However, CIOs now must know how to use that technology to create value for the business. He recommends that technology officers get non-IT experience. And Cox also notes that the changing culture requires CIOs to be far more social.

CIOs are spending more time outside of IT, with internal stakeholders and external customers. They’re seeing more of the big picture and also need to be thinking ahead, instead of simply looking to control whatever technology is being created.

Many others share that view. “The demand for the CIO is to be much more of an influencer, a shaper, a business strategizer, than it has ever been,” Chris Patrick, global lead for Egon Zehnder’s CIO practice, told CIO.

Cox says there are things that IT should not outsource for regulatory/legal reasons. Or some legacy systems may not be worth replacing. His “challenge for CIOs is to stop spending precious time and resources on something that is not adding value to the business anymore and won’t make you stand out from your competitors.”

It’s OK to Buy, Not Build

Nor should they spend time building things that others with a specific expertise can provide. The “buy or build” question is raised in IT circles these days as Independent Software Vendors, solutions providers and organizations consider adding self-service business-intelligence tools to work applications. We’ve written extensively here on how business users don’t want to depend on IT or data scientists to generate reports, dashboards or visualizations for them. In a data-driven business world, application users want to explore or analyze data when and where they want it, on any device.

Gigaom Research, in a recent white paper underwritten by Izenda, writes: “BI solutions should aim to democratize access to data and lift the burden from IT and the data science team. Reporting off transactional databases rather than creating specialized analytical ones facilitates this goal. Both end-users and IT stand to benefit from this development.

“For most ISVs and solution providers, developing an in-house BI solution for applications is prohibitive and costly in terms of time-to-market and required resources. In most cases adopting a third-party solution for BI is most sensible—as long as it offers the required functionality and integration.”

In the new world of IT and business working together on business strategy, it makes sense to move to a self-service BI solution. End-users can create their own reports while freeing up IT resources to focus on other things. Once IT and business units agree upon such key areas as metrics, the processes for creating reports, and security and privacy policies, it’s a win-win for all sides.

Overcoming Divide Between IT, End-Users

However, a recent Forrester Research report, written on behalf of Nextthink, found there is still much work to do in closing the divide between IT and end-users.

The report captures the challenges on both ends. Nearly half of decision-makers surveyed said their IT service portfolio was too complex for users. Nearly all decision-makers said they regularly encountered end-user issues which involved several parts of their IT infrastructure.

And what did the users say? Forrester found 45% of users will try to resolve an issue themselves before reaching the help desk. Almost a third of them said they will seek help from someone not employed in IT.

In a future post, we’ll look at some of the ways innovative IT teams are working to close the gap with end-users.

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