The Technology Puzzle

For more than a decade now the proportion of organisational technology spend being managed outside of the IT team has grown rapidly.  Most industry analysts reckon that the split in IT spending is nearly 50/50 between IT controlled and spent outside of IT.  There are many reasons offered as to why this move has happened, however it is hard to escape the reality that the underlying cause is that IT teams have not been meeting the perceived needs of the organisation.  Why else would “the business” seek to go around IT?  The issue that fascinates is the impact that this fracturing of IT spending is having on an organisation’s ability to deliver value from their technology investments.  

At first glance there doesn’t appear to be any reason to think that this change in spending pattern has done anything but increase the value delivered by technology.  After all most business people would argue that with local delivery they get systems better suited to their needs and that these systems are delivered more quickly.  That may be true, particularly from their individual perspective, but is it true for the organisation?

I read and think a lot about what it takes to deliver value from IT investments and I have never read a case study of an organisation who has delivered value from IT through a department owned, uncoordinated and fragmented approach.  Every case study that I have read is a case study of an organisation who treats IT investment strategically and sets out to create a coordinated, leveragable technology platform that sets them apart in the marketplace.

Authors have their own way of expressing this.  In “Leading Digital” Westerman, Bonnet and McAfee advise that digital transformation is driven top down by strong executive leadership and is based on a combination of great digital capability and great digital leadership.  In “IT Savvy” Weill and Ross implore us to fix what’s broken, streamline and simplify and to build and leverage the digital platform.  In “The CIO Edge” Waller, Hallenbeck and Rubenstrunk  highlight the need for both IT management systems and IT leadership skills.   Waller subsequently teamed with Raskino and wrote “Digital to the Core”.  The title says it all.  

Digital to the core, not digital strapped on team by team based on whatever they thought they need in the moment.  Yet increasingly that is how more and more companies are building their systems.  It’s getting worse as organisations clamour to go digital -we have to act now and we have to act fast.  

The result?  A series of tactical stand alone or badly integrated initiatives that may solve a point problem or appear to provide point value.  However with this approach you end up building tactically towards a lack of coherence with no or very limited real value being created.

So what’s the answer?  The answer is you need to design and deploy your technology strategically.  I think that designing technology strategically is a lot like what I imagine designing a jigsaw puzzle would be.  You design top down starting with the picture (or vision) you are seeking to create.  You then determine the pieces and how the pieces fit together. Once you know this you can cut the pieces however you want them as long as they are within the big picture.  You could even cut puzzles within puzzles if you want and if this is an organisational systems puzzle you most likely will want to, so you can delegate responsibility for sub puzzles out into the organisation.  


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