Trend articles are dangerous. We can lock ourselves into a cycle of touting the next new trend, hoping for something game-changing to happen. But in reality, we find that everything stays much as it was a year later. As someone who writes “trend” articles every year, I want to raise my game. Let’s try something different. On January 1st, let go of everything we know about IT and start a new vision: future-proof IT.
The world is reinventing itself. Technology is exponentially smarter and innovative start-ups are redefining entire industries. It’s time to change business models. You can opt in or lose out. We, as business technology professionals, need to sit closer to our customers who are looking for ever more personal technology. The human dimension demands flexibility and agility.
What if the IT department doesn’t have the time necessary to innovate to keep pushing the business forward? What if IT is spending the entire work day “keeping the lights on,” paralyzed by its own legacy of outdated systems and slow, manual processes? Will the innovation wave slow to a halt? I think so. But the business can’t afford for IT to wait. Change needs to happen right now – the future is now.
Forget What We (Think We) Know
IT is slowly stalling the modernization of many organizations. Don’t get me wrong. They do want to innovate, but they also have an extensive list of additional responsibilities to manage:
- Who maintains the systems?
- Who takes care of the provision and de-provisioning of apps, data and services for employees?
- Who ensures that the systems are secure to keep the business compliant?
There are many IT departments that simply do not have the time or budget to take risks, experiment and drive change. Subsequently causing a chasm to form between IT and the ever-evolving business. Workers aren’t receiving the technology or support they need causing a business to lose its competitive edge. As evidenced by the growing rate of shadow IT many professionals are just circumventing IT all together to get the technology they need to do their job. IT is being pushed further out of the game. If IT is to regain the credibility it deserves, there must be fundamental shift in thinking and approach.
Think Like A Start-Up
IT is naturally highly progressive, but the way many larger businesses run IT today is dated and inflexible. Startups have the advantage of being free of technology baggage. No unwieldy systems or time-consuming processes to work around. This allows them to grow dynamically and be leaders in innovation.
Think about this: If you could start from a clean slate, how would you organize IT?
Step 1: To me the first step is simple: automate the common, repeatable processes that are now performed manually by the IT department. Facilitation tasks such as the provisioning and de-provisioning of apps and services are not core to the business, so why is so much precious IT time spent here?
Step 2: The next step to me is buying services smarter – for instance, buying cloud based services. You can typically spend less money and increase your skilled IT resources (cloud support teams), giving your internal IT department back the time and budget necessary for innovation.
However, while the systems, budget and time need to be there for success, the way that the IT team functions must also facilitate and foster innovation. Successful startups often use the “fail fast, or fail at” principle meaning they do not take big risks with extensive and long-term projects, but approach internal innovation with small, manageable projects. They develop their business by trying a lot of different things and failing often in order to ultimately achieve success. It is the bold experiments that develop those game-changing products and services. Therefore IT must develop an experimental culture. If an idea doesn’t work, move on to the next quickly.
The Future is Now
If you have automated your IT, reinforced your support services, and nurtured an experimental culture to spearhead creativity, you have laid a solid foundation for innovation. By automating those repeatable, and even predictable, IT services allows the rest of the business to increase efficiency, productivity and effectiveness. Looking to IT as forward-thinkers in technology. The reward is a future-proof and flexible organization that can cope with the ever-changing business landscape. And it’s just in time, I would argue, as 2016 is the future and it’s coming up strong.
You can see it already happening if you look at companies like Tesla. Tesla is not just a car, but an innovation platform. Recently an update was released to that platform for hands-free driving. This is something that a traditional car manufacturer would never do. The level of innovation is extremely high and it’s not by any means risk free. But it ensures that companies like Tesla will conquer the market, leaving the old, cumbersome producers in the wind. The same principle applies to the IT organization. We should not see our IT as a service of technology, but as a conduit of innovation.
The key to being future-proof is a good vision that is focused on enabling change. A vision that is supported by the entire company and supports the transformative nature of the business. It should answer questions like:
- How do we stay relevant?
- How do we secure a position in this ever-changing future amid startups like Airbnb, Uber and Tesla, which can produce 10x faster, deliver better products, and realize greater profit per employee than the average business in their industry?