2013 CIO Playbook – 5 Ways IT Must Work Differently in 2013

January 28, 2013 Balakrishna Narasimhan

Last week, my colleague Nick Hamm (@hammnick), wrote about the 5 things CIOs must do in 2013. These included creating a plan to end-of-life on-premise software, building mobile apps, making IT more of an enabler than a gatekeeper, moving beyond deploying social technologies to arming the business with social insights and using crowdsourcing to scale. All great areas to focus in terms of the “what.”

In today’s world, more and more CIOs are starting to take on broader roles within the business. In fact, according to a recent Gartner survey, 77% of CIOs have significant responsibilities outside IT. This stands in stark contrast to the situation even a few years ago when most CIOs had no responsibilities outside IT. The CIO and IT have an opportunity to have a much broader impact on the business in 2013 and beyond, but taking full advantage will require working quite differently than in the past.

Based on what we’ve observed working with CIOs who are driving broad impact within their businesses, here are 5 ways in which IT teams must operate differently in 2013 to achieve success and drive business change.

1. Integrate with business strategy
Over the years, CIOs have focused on better aligning with the business and their efforts have resulted in better alignment and broader influence, as the Gartner survey shows. However, one area where there’s still a lot of work to do is explaining the business impact of today’s technologies. Technologists take it for granted that everyone understands how transformational technologies like cloud computing are. But, as Michael Krigsman(@mkrigsman) pointed out in a recent post, there’s still a big gap between how CIOs perceive the impact of cloud technology and the way business executives see it. Michael made his argument on the basis of a survey of 300+ IT and business executives excerpted below.
As is clear from the chart, business executives believe that cloud provides “better value” but does not offer much competitive advantage whereas CIOs believe that cloud solutions offer both value and competitive advantage. While CIOs clearly get how the agility and extensibility of cloud solutions can drive true business value, they’ve not been able to communicate that to business executives yet. The task for 2013 is for CIOs to engage in developing business strategy by clearly demonstrating to business executives what’s possible with cloud, social and mobile. Understanding what’s possible with technology and using that to inform strategy is not just something that’ll improve the CIO’s position in the business but is increasingly critical to a business’ long-term health. Imagine where Blockbuster might be today if they’d seen the threat/opportunity created by video-streaming sooner rather than continuing to run the same plays on their business strategy as more nimble competitors changed the game.

2. Measure success in terms of business metrics rather than just on-time/on-budget
Most IT project managers measure the success of their projects on the basis of “going-live” on-time and keeping expenses under budget. Given how hard it was to keep a project on track in the world of on-premise technology, this no doubt used to be a major accomplishment. But with cloud applications and platforms, it’s much faster and cheaper to go from concept to production. On-time and on-budget should be a given. It’s time for IT leaders to adjust how they measure success and focus on delivering business value. This means that IT and business executives should jointly sign up for business metrics when they begin a technology project. For example, the success of a CRM project should be measured in terms of improvements in lead-to-close time, higher close rates, etc. These metrics are what both the business and IT should be measured on. A focus on business metrics will make both sides invest more in the outcomes and will lead to situation where the business invests sufficiently in the project during design, prototyping and iteration and IT invests in adoption and process change throughout the lifecycle of the project and beyond.

3. Focus on speed and agility over “perfect” multi-year, big bang projects
In the old paradigm of IT projects, teams tried to create perfect project plans to mitigate every potential risk with the massively complex software they were trying to deploy. In today’s world of cloud solutions, many of the risks of traditional deployments have been eliminated. Rather than focusing on making sure every element of the hardware and software stack works for the particular application one is designing, the focus is now on configuring the cloud solution to address business needs. The time to get from a user requirement to actually having a demoable solution is something that can happen in days. This means that it’s now possible to work differently and embrace more iterative development approaches. When end users can see solutions and iterate on them, it leads to far better adoption and therefore better results. It’s time for IT departments to embrace iterative development and commit to delivering prototypes and demos many times during a project rather than striving to deliver something “perfect” at the end of a multi-year cycle. The other important thing to realize is that projects cannot stop at “go-live.” We now live in a “perpetual beta” World, so releasing quickly and iterating are the keys to success rather than focusing on the perfect “go-live” event.

4. Drive and measure user behavior changes rather than changing documented process
Closely related to focusing on agility and business metrics, CIOs and IT departments have to put the focus on end-users and changing their behavior. One of the most common reasons for IT project failure is lack of adoption, and that’s even more true in today’s world where end-users have very high expectations from any technology they interact with. End-users today want all their apps to be as intuitive as their iPhone apps, which sets a high bar for enterprise IT. The good news is that with cloud APIs and mobile frameworks like PhoneGap, it’s much easier than ever before to create enterprise apps that people want to use. But it’s not just about creating a beautiful UI. It’s also about really understanding what end users are trying to do, involving them in the development process and providing training through engaging media. If you aren’t using end-user feedback as an input to drive your UX design and priorities, expect a lot of rework after your initial release, poor adoption, or both. By doing your homework upfront on how users interact with your designs you’ll produce a much better v1 and increase your odds of successful adoption.

5. Form partnerships across the business to drive true change
Closely related to the previous point, as CIOs start to focus on driving change across the business, they’ll need to partner more closely with others in the organization, particularly HR and to a lesser extent Marketing. HR organizations understand how to drive the large-scale change management and training programs that will be increasingly critical to IT success. Marketing can help creating engaging messaging and excitement around transformation programs. Thinking beyond just the IT or project team will be critical going forward.

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of transformative technologies like cloud, social, mobile and big data but it’s just as important to focus on how best to use these technologies to drive business impact.

Do you have other tips on how best to achieve success in 2013? Tell us comments or tweet us @appirio!

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