Momentum, results and leadership are key elements in IT meeting business demands

In a further extract, Terry White examines the key challenges facing IT leaders

Extract from What Business Really Wants from IT,  by Terry White

The three roles of IT demand management are as follows:

Maintain business momentum

The maintain business momentum (MBM) role concerns managing the existing technologies to keep things going, stable, efficient and keeping costs down. But the emphasis here is that this role manages the service providers, rather than does the work. This management requires planning, organising, management of execution, monitoring, measurement of performance and reporting. The MBM manager interprets the operational requirements needed to maintain a business's momentum, translates these into IT requirements, and manages their supply to the business.

The role is driven by an obsession with service, finding what the business wants and getting it delivered. Performance measurement and monitoring are essential to the MBM role. Finances are also important. "How much money do we need to spend on IT to maintain our business momentum?" becomes the question the technology manager expects from the business, and he or she manages monitors and measures operating cost, capital expenditures and IT assets fastidiously.

Improve business results

The improve business results (IBR) role concerns business outcomes - so what if they have a new system, what has improved in the business through having this system? Traditionally, IT people tend to withdraw from business activities once they have delivered the system, trained the users, bedded the system in and "handed over" to the business. In this role, there is no "hand-over". IT maintains an interest in how the system is running and, more importantly, in how many of the benefits promised by the system have been achieved.

However, there are two other key purposes for the IBR role - IT people in this role are concerned with interpreting business needs and identifying business opportunities so they can be translated into IT solutions in a sensible and aligned way. It doesn't matter how much outsourcing your organisation has done, it must always retain people whose understanding of the business and the technology merge to allow for clever IT solutions. The other key IBR role element is to get involved in the content of the business. They should work with the business to interpret the information that washes through its systems, to extract meaning from it, and to focus the business on improvement opportunities.

Value is added when IT people bring something new to the party - a new insight, or way of doing things, or a way of looking at the information currently available.

Information leadership

The purpose of the information leadership role is to introduce new products and markets that make an organisation more competitive.

Warren Bennis, the leadership guru, has differentiated leadership from management with two simple acronyms. The management acronym is Poem (plan, organise, execute, monitor and measure). True IT leadership will require a special brand of honesty if trust is to be built - this honesty tempers IT hype with business sense, and filters everything through the organisation's strategic intent. Meeting commitments becomes one of the cornerstones of IT leadership.

What Business Really Wants from IT is published by the Computer Weekly Professional Series. To order call 01865-474010 or e-mail [email protected]

Read more on IT jobs and recruitment