Making IT Work in Your Company, Part 2

Editor’s note: This is Part 2 of a three-part series on strategies for making IT

work in the enterprise. Part I appeared yesterday and focused on trends shaping IT organizations and how IT

should enhance evolving business models. Part 3 will appear on Friday.

One of the steps IT executives can take that will help them transition from where they

are today to where they might very well need to go tomorrow is discussed here. It

describes an approach to organizational alignment that builds from the assumptions

laid out in Part I , as well as current and future core competencies.

The best way to interpret the approach is to read it as an open letter to your

company. The organizational structure described below can work within a centralized

or decentralized organization, though the clear bias is toward a decentralized


What follows also works within alternative sourcing scenarios. If, for example,

you’re decentralized but insist on in-house requirements, specification,

implementation and support, then you can use the model to help you make it all


The “open letter” format is intended to personalize new organizational requirements.

It was constructed in response to the problems plaguing most IT organizations and

companies struggling with what to do about IT. Please read it with these assumptions

in mind and – much more importantly – as something that you might perhaps resend in

your company!


An Open Letter to the Business/Technology Community

It’s time for us to re-think how we acquire, deploy and support IT and how we should

organize ourselves to effectively apply IT to our business models and processes. This

letter is intended to explore the parameters of that organization and offer a set of

specific suggestions for making IT the strategic weapon it’s destined to become.

Let’s begin with a description of the new business/IT agenda – which really describes

a new business/IT partnership.

The New Business/IT Agenda

  • There are clear objectives which together prescribe a new agenda for information

    technology at our company.

  • IT must align with current and anticipated business processes, products and

    services; if alignment cannot be determined, then investments in existing or new

    infrastructures or applications should not be made.

  • The ultimate purpose of IT is to ensure efficiency, profitability and growth, not

    to champion “technologies.”

  • IT is as major a contributor to business strategy and planning as any other

    “conventional” business activity or function; without (well-conceived, -implemented

    and -supported) IT, there are no business processes, products or services; IT is

    therefore as “legitimate” a corporate stakeholder and provider as marketing, financial

    controls and other “core” business activities.

  • Our IT organizational structures must adapt to changing business priorities; the

    ability of IT to adapt to new competitor challenges and business opportunities is

    essential to its ability to contribute to profitability and growth.

  • From Here to There

  • Decentralization is appropriate: our businesses are moving too quickly to be

    organized or managed centrally. The decentralization of IT is a natural and

    appropriate extension of the decentralized business environment. While one might

    argue that centralization/decentralization swings with the political winds, it’s

    difficult to imagine it ever swinging back to where applications development becomes

    separate from their business units or users. What is possible – and desirable – is

    the “centralization” of the “infrastructure” – defined in very specific ways

    since there is a lines-of-business and enterprise benefit to the central management of

    infrastructure services.

  • Our internal IT organization must evolve from “control” to

    “collaboration” and “facilitation.” IT is too often seen as an obstacle to progress

    and growth, not as a facilitator of business.

  • IT needs to identify a short list of enterprise (corporate-wide) infrastructure

    areas in which to invest – and then invest in them consistently and predictably.

    These areas include:

  • — The design and development of a world-class communications network.

    — Methods for organizing, accessing and securing data.

    — World-class mobile computing, virtual office and electronic commerce infrastructure

  • IT also needs to identify a set of activities that will add business value to the

    lines of business – activities that are appropriately conducted at the enterprise

    level. They include:

  • — The setting of standards boundaries that simultaneously provide room for the

    businesses to operate in and offer the cost and performance advantages of

    less-rather-than-more-variation in our communications and computing environment.

    — Process improvement initiatives.

    — The co-management of any enterprise outsourcing activities.

    — Procedures for aligning systems and technology investments with business


    — The facilitation of reuse (of applications, data bases, development

    architectures) and the reduction of redundant technical activity in the lines

    of business.

    — Leadership in enterprise wide initiatives (like major upgrades).

    — Enterprise hardware and software (license) acquisition.

    — Contracting and sub-contracting.

    — Hardware and software asset acquisition and disposition.

    — Selected security administration and business resumption planning.

    — Overall security policy.