Anyone who works in corporate IT knows that frequent organizational changes are a given. If you are sitting at your desk and an organizational change announcement communication hasn’t hit your inbox in more than six months you probably feel a certain discomfort that things are a little too stable. I don’t know from whom nor when I first heard this joke but there is an unfortunate truth to it: “If you don’t quite understand the logic behind the new organization structure, don’t spend much time thinking about it because a new organization announcement is right around the corner.” Thus, as I think about how corporate IT needs to constantly evolve to meet ever changing business needs, I thought I would share a few recent thoughts on the subject.
I figured I would tackle this topic first even though a number of readers probably rolled their eyes at the very mention of this over used term “innovation” in present corporate IT vernacular. Yet, the reality is that if you are part of a corporate IT delivery process, an who isn’t (yes, corporate audit, you are included as well), if you aren’t constantly evaluating your tools and processes with a focus on continuous improvement you risk gross inefficiencies and potential outsourcing. But a specific challenge of the now popular cross-functional and business vertical aligned teams is the struggle to effectively innovate horizontally. Budgets, project life-cycles and quality gates are aligned to the business sponsor without much room for an enterprise opportunity intersection. Unless a new solution is “production ready” prior to the initial planning/design phase, it is exceedingly difficult to introduce cross-project solutions such as:
“Hey, project A for business unit X, project B for Y and project C for Z could all use a single Flim Flam capability. With 91% of the requirements overlapping, this is a no brainer. A single Flim Flam capability reduces overall IT delivery costs by 66% for these three projects.”
Well, try to get all these projects with their separate funding streams, separate resources, separate time-lines, separate sponsors, etc. together to talk about enterprise alignment and … I think you get the picture.
Note: I put the word “pragmatic” in front of innovation. I’m not trying to argue that every corporate IT organization must over achieve in delivering cutting edge, emerging technology. I am suggesting nothing exotic like enabling sales teams with Google glasses that facially recognize sales prospects and mine Facebook, Linked In and the corporate CRM systems and display relevant attributes about the prospect the sales person is currently looking at. Wait a minute … maybe I should put more thought into this concept. Where did I put that contact info for Y Combinator …
Cutting edge technology innovation is great, but I’m arguing that the need to pragmatically look across the portfolio of projects in the pipeline and identify opportunities to inject enterprise solutions to common needs is a level of innovation desperately needed by today’s corporate IT functions.
How does “Enterprise Architecture” play a role in this need?
This cross-portfolio view is where an “enterprise architecture” function would be able to look across efforts, identify these opportunities and outline the benefits of an enterprise solution rather than separate more costly overlapping investments. But having a functional role be able to identify these pragmatic innovation opportunities involves a degree of organizational maturity to support the funding of such teams. Yet funding the EA role isn’t enough. There needs to be PMO/PLC mechanisms and budget/project funding flexibility to further empower the architecture role to actually inject the innovation into the project delivery flow.
Thus we finally get to my main point: corporate IT organizations need to go beyond the business vertically aligned teams to incorporate some horizontal enterprise view in order to drive down overall costs and provide pragmatic innovative solutions. Corporate IT functions that don’t will find more and more business needs being solved by “the cloud” and corporate IT will find themselves viewed as an expensive “cost center” that needs to be constantly reducing expenditures and relegated to a “keep the lights on” level of staffing.
Look for some more articles on evolving corporate IT structures to address current business challenges soon.