Last week, I had a conversation with a CEO who described his CIO as being too solicitous of his business partners.
Think this is a good problem? Think again.
Over the past decade, IT organizations have worked hard to improve services and in turn increase IT's impact on the business. But in the quest to deliver great service, IT actually may have been disabling rather than enabling the enterprise.
How? In two ways. First, continual hand-holding leads to a loss of precious time that could be devoted to more important activities. Second, helping others who can help themselves circumvents learning. It lets them off the hook and alleviates their sense of responsibility. And ultimately it slows down progress as communication is constantly being run through an intermediary. In delegation lingo, this is called taking on someone else's monkey.
My last blog entry, As Good As IT Gets, recommends that business unit leaders take direct control over the management of their IT assets in order to increase innovation capacity. That means managers at all levels would fulfill day-to-day IT needs on their own, including managing projects and change, performing business process and data analysis, and troubleshooting systems issues.
Many business leaders will take pause at this. As reader Judy did in her response to the Eight Things We Hate About ITblog, "...isn't that the purpose of having a dedicated staff of IT?" Doesn't IT exist to do exactly what I'm now saying business leaders should do? You know, manage IT.
No. The purpose of having a dedicated IT staff is to ensure that information technology is applied in direct support of the business strategy - to help the business compete and grow profitably. IT should make sure that IT is done well, but not try to do it all. Trying to do it all on behalf of business partners results in a tactically focused IT organization too busy managing transactions to rise above the fray and resolve the complex issues described in the Why We Love/Hate IT blog entries.
As a result of IT giving the business fish, rather than teaching it to fish, much important work in IT isn't getting done. By taking direct control over the IT assets that support your business, you can ensure that IT is focused on the work that serves enterprise interests, such as:
- Reducing IT costs, particularly the "lights on" component that eats up 75 cents of each IT dollar spent
- Shaping and informing business strategy to ensure that IT is used to drive business performance
- Creating approaches to innovation that allow IT and the other parts of the business to "learn while doing"
Let me say it again: Pleasing business partners shouldn't be IT's ultimate goal. Rather, IT's ultimate goal is to ensure the success of the business. Help IT serve you and the business by making sure that IT isn't doing anything for you that you can, and should, do for yourself.
In the next blog, we will explore the important work that isn't getting done in IT. Take a moment to share your views of how you are taking control of your business's technology future and the important work that IT should be doing, but isn't.