>Turning IT From Frenemy to Friend

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Fast Company (December 2008) describes Frenemies as a “thrilling intricate dance” of friend-enemy relationships.

Half a year later, CBS News (July 2009) reports that this words is added to the dictionary: “Frenemysomeone who pretends to be a friend, but is really an enemy.”

Recently, I’ve heard the term applied to Information Technology, as in they they here to help (i.e. friend-like), but boy are they often an obstacle as well (i.e. enemy-like).

Obviously not the message any IT executive wants to hear about their folk’s customer service and delivery!

Today, the Wall Street Journal (25 April 2011) writes about the “discontent with the [IT] status quo” and it calls somewhat drastically to “Get IT out of the IT department.

Why?

Based on responses from business and IT leaders, here are some of the key reasons:

– “IT is seen as overly bureaucratic and control-oriented” (51% business and 37% IT)
– “IT doesn’t deliver on time” (44% business and 49% IT)
– “IT products and services doesn’t meet the needs of the business” (39% business and 29% IT)
– “IT consists of technologists, not business leaders” (60% business and 46% IT)

Therefore, the WSJ states “both for competitive and technological reasons…business unit leaders need to start assuming more control over the IT assets that fuel their individual businesses.”

This is being called “Innovative IT”–where “IT shifts to more of a support role. IT empowers business unit self-sufficiency by providing education, coaching, tools, and rules, which allow for individuals to meet their needs in a way that protects the overall need of the enterprise.”

The result is rather than delivering IT to the business, we deliver IT “through the business.

In this model, there is an emphasis on partnership between the business and IT, where:

IT provides services to the business (i.e. through a service-oriented architecture of capabilities)–systems, applications, products, tools, infrastructure, planning, governance, security, and more.
– The business exploits these services as needed, and they innovate by “dreaming up ideas, developing prototypes, and piloting changes” that will most impact on-the-ground performance.

I believe this is consistent with stage 4 (the highest) of architecture maturity–called Business Modularity–as described by Ross, Weill and Robertson in Enterprise Architecture As Strategy: In this stage, we “grant business unit managers greater discretion in the design of front-end processes, which they can individually build or buy as modules connected to core data and backend processes. In effect,managers get the freedom to bolt functionality onto the optimized core.” The result is a “platform of innovation…[that] enables local experiments, and the best ones spread throughout the company.”

Related to this are interviews in the WSJ today with 3 CIOs, that all bear out this IT leadership direction:

– Frank Wander (Guardian Life Insurance)–“We have IT embedded into each business and we have a seat at the table. We’re partners.”
– Norm Fjeldheim (Qualcomm)–“We’re structured exactly the same way Frank is. IT is embedded in the business. I’m only responsible for about half the IT budget.”
– Filippo Passrini (Proctor & Gamble)–“Our business partners are people outside IT….in the past we were always in ‘push’ mode…now…there is a lot of ‘pull’.”

So one of the goals of IT and business is to transform from a relationship of frenemies to friends and genuine partners; this will leverage the strengths of each–the expertise of our technology professionals and the customer insights and agility of our business people.

>Gap Analysis and Enterprise Architecture

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There was a terrific keynote at the 1105 Government Information Group enterprise architecture conference this week in Washington, DC by Mr. Armando Ortiz, who presented “An Executive Architect’s View of IT Asset Investment and EA Governance Strategies.”

The highlight for me was Mr. Ortiz, view of EA gap analysis, which goes something like this (i.e. in my words):

Enterprise architects, supported by business and technical subject matter experts across the organization, develop the current and target architectures. The difference between these is what I would call, the architecture gap, from which is developed the transition plan (so far not much new here).

But here comes the rest…

The gap between the current IT assets and the target IT assets results in one of two things, either:

  • New IT assets (i.e. an investment strategy) or
  • Retooling of existing IT assets (i.e. a basic containment strategy);

New IT investments are a strategic, long-term strategy and retooling the existing IT assets is an operational, short-term strategy.

In terms of the corporate actors, you can have either:

  • Business IT (decentralized IT) or
  • Enterprise IT (centralized IT; the CIO) manage the IT asset strategy.

For new IT investments:

  • If they are managed by business IT, then the focus is business innovation (i.e. it is non-standard IT and driven by the need for competitive advantage), and
  • If it is managed by enterprise IT, then it is a growth strategy (i.e. it is rolling out standardized IT—utility computing–for implementing enterprise solutions for systems or infrastructure).

For existing IT assets:

  • If they are managed by business IT, then the focus is improvement (i.e. improving IT for short-term profitability), and
  • If it is managed by enterprise IT, then it is a renewal strategy (i.e. for recapitalizing enterprise IT assets).

What the difference who is managing the IT assets?

  • When IT Assets are managed by business IT units, then the organization is motivated by the core mission or niche IT solutions and the need to remain nimble in the marketplace, and
  • When IT assets are managed by the enterprise IT, then the organizations is motivated by establishing centralized controls, standards, and cost-effectiveness.

Both approaches are important in establishing a solid, holistic, federated IT governance.

Mr. Ortiz went on to describe the EA plans developing three CIO WIFMS (what’s in it for me):

  • Operational excellence (“run IT efficiently)
  • Optimization (“make IT better”)
  • Transformation (“new IT value proposition”)

The link between IT assets, investment/containment strategies, business and enterprise IT actors, and the benefits to the CIO and the enterprise was a well articulated and perceptive examination of enterprise architecture and gap analysis.