Strategies for IT departments

ICT, Technology, Information, Build, Digital

In today’s digital world, IT plays a central role.

It is important, however, to remember that this is a supporting role. The only purpose of IT in a business is to support and enable other departments in the delivery of services. It doesn’t exist for its own sake.

The desire to control and deliver can lead to IT dictating what the rest of the business will get, with typical low expectations and low levels of satisfaction. Since IT is extremely expensive, this just isn’t good enough.


Architecture & Technology

The best technical architectures are founded on clear and simple principles, utilise focused tools and components and are flexible enough to respond to emerging requirements.

Good Architecture is not about big up-front design (BUFD) or theories, it is about small up-front design followed by prototyping, testing (including performance and load testing) and real-world feedback.

All prior to any design to commit. That is what reduces both architectural risk and costs.

Digital Services

Making services digital is top of most companies’ agendas, with tremendous benefits that can follow. However, it is key to keep in mind that Digital is not the end in itself – the prime consideration must remain customers and the services they used.

Sometimes these are best provided via non-digital means with face-to-face or telephone contact, particularly for groups for which Digital is not a good fit (e.g. the disabled and elderly).

People care about receiving a good and convenient service, however it is provided.

Transforming Legacy Infrastructure

Many business are hamstrung by old technology from decades past. This is frequently a barrier to significant change and a source of poor quality and customer experience.

However, the answer is not some “big-bang” all-eggs-in-one-basket high-risk mega-project. Instead, transform the legacy incrementally and progressively, leaving systems alone that are not causing problems and prioritising those that do.

Change Control

Because of the technical challenges involved in transforming legacy infrastructure, delivering new architectures, technologies and digital services, IT frequently has a strong desire to minimise service change in order to make progress.

It’s important to weigh carefully the benefits of going slower in the short-term in order to deliver long-term radical change. It may well be necessary but needs proper consideration of the impact across the business and on stakeholders.

Maintainability & Technical Debt

Firefighting and short-term fixes lead to a legacy of poor-quality IT, held together by the technological equivalent of sticky tape and string.

While this may be necessary in the short-term, it is a false economy to never deal with it. Sooner or later it becomes hugely expensive and difficult to change services and quality fails with frequent failures.

Balancing investment for the short and long-term is not a decision solely for IT – it needs backing across the whole executive.

Good IT is ever more important. It is critically important to retain the right skills and competencies in-house and not lose them in current fashions of outsourcing.

IT is a core competency for almost all businesses (whether they like to think of themselves in these terms or not). It is extremely easy to lose control and then unable to deliver service improvements, which can be then be the downfall of the whole business. All of that said, external delivery partners can be invaluable, providing much needed agility.

IT has a habit of leading to big expensive flagship projects. These are very risky and unnecessarily force “bet-the-farm” decisions. They rarely deliver to expectations, timescales and budgets and are frequently lamented in the media. It is far more healthy to insist that all IT change is split up into discrete deliverable incremental phases, reducing risks and simultaneously gathering real data and evidence that a new IT direction is the way to go. This is best done through Lean and Agile techniques.

Developing a detailed strategy will also depend on local circumstances. I’d welcome the opportunity to work with you to define a specific approach to your department.

Posted in Strategy.

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