Is the IT department a cost centre? Ask someone from the business and the answer will often be yes. After all, the business is dominated by a persistent image of an IT department that gobbles up a great deal of money but yields little to nothing.
That impression is partially caused by the fact that business and IT do not speak the same language. The business wants to move forward and innovate, but the IT department cannot join them in those endeavours, since it needs to make every effort just to keep the lights on.
Then what are actually the main reasons for this misalignment? What are the elements in the wall separating these two parties? How can they find each other so the organisation can grow and profit from current technologies?
Right now, IT departments face these four major challenges:
1. They need to be able to roll out new services quickly under pressure from the business. In addition, they need to adjust their existing services to connect more effectively to what the business actually needs.
2. The IT department needs to maintain its internal standard of knowledge to be able to manage a multitude of hardware, software and network components effectively and efficiently. Preferably 24/7, but without huge added costs.
3. IT departments need to be able to guarantee continuity of their services both on a short-term and long-term basis; always-on has become the default.
4. When working with external suppliers, they often fall back on rigid SLAs – cold contracts that they want to stick to. But IT departments and their clients are looking for flexibility and a solution-driven approach. They care far more about good collaboration and partnership, resulting in a good customer experience, rather than bickering over whether or not some random metric has been achieved.
The business faces these four following major challenges:
1. Enhancing the competitive edge of the organisation by decreasing the time to operational value. This is only possible through continuous innovation and process optimisation.
2. Finding a technology partner that truly understands the business of the company and develops a roadmap in close collaboration with the customer.
3. Determining a technological fit with their own underlying organisational model. This is about the question of where the company is headed on the short, mid and long term and how that can be supported by technology.
4. Increasing the maturity of the complete organisation, leading to collaboration, both internal and with partners, based on more trust and improved results based on clear objectives. Consistent leadership and accountability for shared achievements are given and carried in these contexts.
An important prerequisite for both business and IT is to be able to anticipate these challenges by tackling the 80/20 rule. At the moment, an IT department spends eighty percent of its time on purely operational matters (“keeping the lights on”) and twenty percent on innovative projects. This severely limits an organisation in taking advantage of the opportunities offered by new technology.
Ideally, an IT department should spend 20 percent of its time on operational management and the rest of its time on projects that deliver tangible value for the business. The shift from 80/20 to 20/80 is possible if the company finds a trusted partner that can take over the operational tasks and at the same time has the expertise to contribute their thoughts on new opportunities and possibilities in the field of technology. This is not traditional outsourcing, which is mostly based on cost reduction, but outtasking, which is based on creating added value for the customer.