Stand Up IT Change Agents, Your Organisation Needs You

By failing to embrace a more strategic view of the role IT should play in an organisation, and not being aligned to the strategic business plan, IT personnel are risking their own redundancy. 

When Bill Gates speaks, people tend to sit up and take note. Recently he opened up to Bloomberg host Charlie Rose, about his good friend Warren Buffett, and how Buffett manages his time.

Gates said, “I remember looking at Warren’s calendar. He’s so careful about his time. He has days when there’s nothing on. I had every minute packed. I thought that was the only way to do things.”

But Buffet gave Gates a fresh take on how to use his time more wisely. Buffet freely acknowledges that he can buy anything he wants, except time, so he’s precious with it. For Gates this meant re-aligning his work days so that he could spend more time on strategy and thinking about his business, not just being busy.

IT leaders can learn much from two of the world’s richest people. We could all learn from them. IT teams spend too much of their time on mundane IT tasks and not enough time enabling their organisations to significantly lift customer experience delivery, through smart, strategic IT actions. And it gets worse. By not embracing a more strategic view of the role IT should play in an organisation, and not being aligned to the strategic business plan, IT people are risking their own redundancy. 

In looking at the ‘Top 12 Resolutions for 2019’,  Australian CIO provocatively suggests, “Tech teams need to lose the grunt work and exercise more strategic thinking.”

Key among the CIO resolutions for 2019 are:

  1. Paying less attention to ‘shiny new IT things’. The Greek mythology about the sirens captures this perfectly. The sirens were dangerous sea creatures possessing seductive singing powers that lured sailors to their destruction on the rocks. Stop listening to the ‘cool tech’ sirens. Start working on and delivering against long-term strategic initiatives.
  2. Offload the grunt work. Research suggests that in small to medium-sized organisations, IT teams spend up to 80% of their time on business as usual activities. Get a plan together to automate network visibility, provisioning and management.
  3. It’s not enough to solve the problems your organisation already knows it has. IT leaders need to exercise their strategic thinking and skills in engaging with people in the business that are shaping its future (i.e. customer service, product managers and business development).

IT departments are largely operating in silos and many have a reputation for holding back rather than leading business improvement in their organisations. Digital transformation is not a one-off event. It is a state of continuous improvement, a point underlined by Deloitte. In their “Tech Trends 2018 Report”, Deloitte sates that the role of the CIO is increasingly being asked to adapt and change to customer facing initiatives while still keeping core IT functions running smoothly.

So, what are the consequences of IT operating in a silo and focusing on the mundane? Potentially being consigned to the scrap heap, replaced by those shiny AI-driven robots we all saw at the last tech show.

As Software Defined Networking (SDN) cuts hard into the WAN operations and ‘Cloud consumption’ environment, those mundane IT operations disappear into a software stack. Once this occurs, the organisations that have been solely focused on the siren calls of Artificial Intelligence will bring these capabilities into that developing SDN stack to deliver another round of speed and accuracy enhancements that we humans can’t match.

 IT leaders and teams that ‘get it’ are getting on board and engaging with their peer group to help shape their business’s future. They recognise that they are better off having humans do what we humans do best; using nuance, emotion and empathy to connect with and delight our fellow humans (aka customers) in the pursuit of relevant, meaningful and mutually-beneficial interactions.

They’re playing their part in change or transformation for the greater good.  When it comes to the role of IT in an organisation, are you standing up or still sitting down?