Development-oriented, operational or surviving IT organization?
It has been my pleasure to work with a wide selection of organizations in Northern Europe for a while now. During the last few years, I have noticed a pattern of differentiation between IT organizations. The operations of IT have previously been quite similar to one another, but now two organizations located side by side in the same block may be vastly different. The greatest difference is in the ability to innovate and harness technology in an efficient way to support growth in business.
Based on this, three different types of IT organisations can be recognized:
1. Development-oriented organizations
Development-oriented organizations have a strong emphasis on developing their employees and practices and are not afraid to shake their foundations when it’s necessary. They use methods, such as service design, service integration, multi-mode development and automation of service operations, which allow them to be fast and free time and energy to improve business.
In a discussion with the IT management teams of a development-oriented IT organization, the focus is on the future. In discussion, we are not talking about what is needed today, but after 2020. Business management fully trusts the IT and has given it a mandate to lead business technology and digitalization in the company. Dialogue with business management is both formal and informal, occurs naturally and is supported by good practices and people in strategically smart roles.
In a discussion with the IT management teams of a development-oriented IT organization, the focus is on the future.
It is great to see the increasing number of development-oriented organizations. They are showing the way to others.
2. Operational organizations
Operational organizations have, over the years, spent time in developing their operational capabilities, and now aim is to become proactive business developers. While they have recognized the importance of developing employees and practices and may be putting some effort into it, the focus remains still mostly on operational activities.
Operational organizations acknowledge the importance of development, but their focus is still on operational aspects and short-term projects. Even though their operations are well organized, the IT management is constantly facing the issues which take up resources from development and strategic thinking. On the other hand, the quality of services and dialogue with business management is often mainly good. Problems arise with inability to innovate, come up with new ideas and efficient harnessing of technology to serve business.
Operational organizations acknowledge the importance of development, but their focus is still on operational aspects and short-term projects.
Operational organizations should be braver and aim higher. They are in an excellent position to learn from development-oriented organizations, and to avoid mistakes made by pioneers before them. They have the ability to quickly become development-orientated.
3. Surviving organizations
Considering operations of “surviving organizations” feels like time travelling to the beginning of the 2000s. Everyday life is literally surviving. The companies are surrounded by surprises coming from all corners and the same problems keep repeating themselves, because the roots of the problems are never solved. There’s little chance for development and the hectic ambiance takes away resources to think about future beyond the next following weeks.
When it comes to surviving organizations, the perspective is very operational and the focus is on daily issues. The dialogue between business management and IT is weak. A clear symptom of a surviving organization is the existence of shadow ITs.
Everyday life is literally surviving. The companies are surrounded by surprises coming from all corners and the same problems keep repeating themselves, because the roots of the problems are never solved.
The positive thing about these companies is that they tend to try a lot of new things. However, trying something new on occasion or changing the IT management every now and then is not enough to create real change. Instead, the entire foundation of the structures should be disrupted and rebuilt. This is the only way to really change.
My hope for the IT management in a surviving organization is first and foremost that they find courage to step away from the treadmill. What not to do now to renew and transform and do better in the future?
Why are these differences meaningful?
Success in IT has had a large impact on the success of a company for a long time now, and in the future the impact will be even larger. Those struggling with everyday problems are overrun by competitors who have their vision set on development. The good news is, it is not too late to step on the path of development.
About the Author
The writer, Pavel Haimi, is responsible for Technology Backbone concept at Sofigate. Haimi has more than 15 years of experience in IT management as well as developing strategic organizational capabilities in both Finnish and international organizations.