This is a process; i.e. it must be done continuously in conjunction with the development and implementation of an IT strategy.
Plan for the changes. An ITO should have a well defined plan to deal with these changes. This plan should be thorough but recognize the fact that it is based on a prediction. The real thing might turn out to be very different. Hence, there is a need for flexibility in this plan.
We can only hope to identify all the changes in time. Some will invariably slip through. Do not let this concern about an “incomplete picture” get in the way of action. Some of what we did not get will pass by without impact. The rest, one can deal with through improvisation.
One should not (and, practically, cannot) act on every identified change on the horizon. Only a few will be relevant to us. We should also learn to differentiate between a temporary blip from a fundamental shift.
To my knowledge, this is not an exact science but a matter of instinct and agility. Over time, we hone in our instincts. But agility must be built into the system.
Build flexibility into the system. Agility is essential to the success of an ITO because even the most carefully crafted plan will face facts on the ground that will render some or all of it ineffective.
So, how do you build agility into the system?
First, through an IT strategy that adapts. This assumes an IT strategy is never completely “done” but is crafted over time through a process of multiple “learn and do” cycles. You create a “big picture” then take baby steps to implement it; refining it along the way as needed.
This process includes periodic checkpoints much like the six sigma tollgates that evaluate the current position. Monitoring the environment tells us what the latest business drivers are. Then respond to these questions:
This is analogous to driving in fog: You know where you want to go but at any given time your view is restricted to the immediate horizon. So, along the way, evaluate where you are and give yourself time to respond. Drive too fast or over commit in other ways and you land in a ditch!
Second, we need an enterprise architecture that is flexible. Eliminating redundancy is job one. Then applying sound architecture principles such as “component based,” “plug and play,” etc. results in a flexible architecture.
Most importantly, a CIO and their team need a flexible attitude. Nobody can predict the future. Stuff happens when you least expect it. The best of us make mistakes. Admit it when you are wrong.
Bottom line? Be willing to change because, staying the course can be neither good for the shareholders nor your career.
Sourabh Hajela is a management consultant and trainer with over 20 years of experience creating shareholder value for his Fortune 50 clients. His consulting practice is focused on IT strategy, alignment and ROI. For more information, please visit www.StartSmartS.com. Or feel free to contact Sourabh at [email protected].