IT as a “Business Unit” – A Critical Seat at the Executive Table

In my three previous blog posts, I’ve discussed some of the key topics organizations need to tackle as they consider the “how” of digital transformation:

In this post, I’ll share some views on the foundation and creative playground that the business can innovate on top of The Digital Business Platform.

The opportunity to unleash your inner Da Vinci, Michelangelo, or Warhol isn’t a myth! It can be a reality, but there are three key themes to consider as you put the foundations for the future in place:

  • IT as a Business Unit
  • Platform for Innovation
  • Monetizing Data

IT as a Business Unit

Sounds like an oxymoron right? Wrong. A few years back, many were talking about the end of IT and the death of the CIO. In some respects they were right, but perhaps not in the way they thought. IT of yesteryear has gone. The role of IT and the CIO of today is a phoenix rising – or at least it should be. In today’s customer-driven, digital world, IT should be taking on a much more central role in shaping and growing the business for the future. It needs to move beyond supporting and enabling the business to become an integrator and innovator. IT needs to have an equal seat at the table. IT needs to be a business unit.

The recent rise we’ve seen in the role of the Chief Digital Officer (CDO) in some respects is an admission that IT and the line of business (LOB) aren’t working together as harmoniously as the business needs. If they did, the CDO role wouldn’t be needed. The point of the “seat at the table” isn’t about validation, it’s about ensuring the creative pieces of the transformation puzzle are in place and shrinking the execution gap. Consider swapping some roles: IT to LOB, LOB to IT. Live in the other’s shoes for a while! You might be surprised by the outcomes.

Platform for Innovation

We live in a customer-driven, instant-gratification world these days. We drive this as consumers. We feel the effects as business leaders. Operating at the speed of the customer is the new benchmark in service delivery. Minutes and hours versus weeks or months. Unleashing your creativity in this context requires a digital canvas and platform for innovation.

Part of the shift in the role for IT is to deliver the platform cost-effectively and uniformly across the organization. This underscores the comments above about LOB and IT working together at the same table. Random and reactionary credit card swiping for new capabilities because “IT doesn’t get it” doesn’t help. Someone has to deal with your platform eventually, and the more you swipe, the more mess it eventually creates and the more it slows the organization down.

The platform, therefore, needs to align with and cover the bases for the business’s needs so it can be data-driven, smart in the IoT context, on-demand, trusted (manage and mitigate risk), experience-driven (delivering immersive, connected, differentiated, monetizable experiences to customers/partners/citizens), and provide the right tools and working environment to ensure you have an innovative and productive workforce.

Writing a few paragraphs in a blog on this is easy. Doing it for real clearly isn’t, so I’m not suggesting for a second that it is. I realize there’s the large shadow of legacy to deal with, older working practices, new skills, approaches (dev-ops, agile), decision-making, empowerment at the edge, and on and on. That said, just because it’s challenging doesn’t mean you don’t do it. Remember that the “I” in IT or CIO has shifted from “Information” to “Integrate, Innovate, Inspire, Ideate, Insight.”

Monetizing Data

It’s all about the data these days, right? Data is everywhere. It’s the new oil, a new asset class, the raw material for the information age. Companies are becoming data companies – all roads lead to data! The gathering of data is one thing, but what are you doing with it? What specifically are you doing with it other than building digital mountains of the stuff? What are your top 10 use cases? How will you use the data to drive operational excellence, efficiency, safety, predictive maintenance, modeling and simulation, real-time insights at the point of sale, personalization, contextualization? How will you reach customers with something more immersive and valuable to them than a product on the shelf?

I realize the shift from gathering data to monetizing sounds obvious, but the reason I raise it is simply that many organizations are not there yet. How do you change that and avoid ending up as a footnote in a book about a business that had mountains of data but couldn’t act on the insights held within it?

To learn more about weathering this era of disruption, stay tuned to the IT Peer Network’s Business Leadership blogs, or follow me on Twitter @IntelAndrew.