Do you consider yourself business or technology-focused? Or are you a business and IT hybrid? It is now almost a truism to say that business and IT goals need to be aligned or synchronised. With this broad acceptance, the question that remains is: what makes it difficult to achieve?
The evidence for alignment being a continuing challenge is the number of failures in large IT-enabled business change programmes. This demonstrates that there are no easy answers here.
However, there are some approaches that can improve the chances of success. I want to focus on the development of knowledge and skills.
While operating as a CIO within large organisations I often recruited or appointed business-focused IT managers to be the bridge between IT groups and business colleagues. Although I still consider this to be a workable solution in many cases, there is a growing case for spreading the hybrid capability across the organisation.
Whether you are a C-level executive, a manager, IT professional or super-user you will benefit from understanding the principles of IT-enabled business change. What are some of these foundation messages?
One is that although business change follows a directional lifecycle, it is not just a matter of implementing a structured systems methodology. Working within a British Computer Society group, Henley Business School has developed an IT-enabled business change lifecycle that has three crucial differences from a systems lifecycle.
First it recognises the fuzzy front-end of the business IT alignment stage which links the strategy and business change. This is not one where most IT professionals feel comfortable since there is a great deal of uncertainty.
The second major difference is the focus on business benefits rather than the implementation of a system. This is not an easy task at any stage of the lifecycle.
Thirdly, the business change must encompass processes, information and people as well as technology.
My view is that there is no reason why the majority of people in an organisation should not understand what makes IT-enabled business change successful. The greater the level of knowledge, the more likely that people can contribute to the success.
A way of assessing skills in this area is to use the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA). The latest version of SFIA has a group category for business change skills that includes, for example, business analysis and stakeholder management. SFIA operates at many levels of skills.
The BCS qualification in IT-enabled business change does not require a significant level of prior knowledge or a great investment in time to reach the foundation level. Of course, there is the potential to go much deeper, but this is easier once the core business change language has been assimilated.
The aim is that the competency in IT-enabled change will be as widespread as the acceptance that it is important. Forward-thinking CIOs will take the lead in making this happen.
IT-Enabled Business Change: Successful Management, by Sharm Manwani
The high-profile failure of major IT-related projects in both private and public sectors underlines the need for stringent change management. This book is intended to help those who are involved in IT-enabled business change projects to understand the issues and to be more successful.
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