CXO

Naked CIO: It's IT's time to lead, not follow

Don't be a bystander in business projects, IT must swim with the sharks...

Of course all projects should benefit core business goals, but that does not negate the need for initiatives that are owned and led by the IT department, says the Naked CIO.

While I support some of the arguments in a recent silicon.com article, Why there should be no such thing as an IT project, I disagree with the underlying assumption in the message.

Rather than not having IT projects, I believe the IT department should have more ownership and involvement in business activities. In fact it should be leading key value-oriented initiatives at an organisational level.

You could easily argue that there is no such thing as an accounting project or no such thing as a marketing project. In any modern business most projects are now multi-faceted, often with overarching benefits and impact. So the ultimate question is how IT participates in those initiatives to drive strategic initiatives.

In my opinion IT has to lead more and follow less, albeit in the name of collaboration and common action. While there should be no projects that cannot provide value for core business goals, there can and should be initiatives owned and led by IT that do offer measurable and definable business value.

The absence of IT-led initiatives in organisations can be seen in increased duplication, lack of cohesive data integration, inefficient single-purpose development, decaying information management and poor organisational processes.

Certainly, most organisations that I see are still order-takers and not business drivers, but this failing does not provide an acceptable argument for IT departments carrying on as they are.

The common lethargic, non-engaged IT answer to projects is to stand back and just do what is asked even if there are significant flaws in the request or a lack of strategic planning about how the initiative can benefit the entire organisation.

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IT must brave shark-infested waters
(Photo credit: miusam-ck via Flickr under the following Creative Commons licence

In my assessment, we need more IT projects. More IT involvement in sharing knowledge and developing ideas that show how benefits can be extended beyond the initial business case to other departments is essential for a modern integrated organisation. I see IT as one of the few areas, given the right vision, mandate and structure, that can deliver this.

Increasingly I think IT should be the guardian of business process and lead how changes in process should be managed throughout an organisation to minimise disruption and optimise effectiveness.

Yes, this role means higher risk, with the IT department swimming into shark-infested waters, yet how often are we left taking the blame anyway?

Logical methodology and involvement in these changes also provide IT with an opportunity to be involved early and ensure questions can be asked and the full impact of initiatives is accounted for. Ignorance is never bliss in an IT department.

While there may only be business projects, IT needs to stand up much more and take the lead, share the ownership and own the accountability. It will change the role your department plays and bring you and your team to the strategic table. There is no downside in that.

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