Summary: Technology has changed, but many IT departments still operate with outdated or ineffective strategies. Is your IT department one of them? This article lists 6 signs to watch for.
Over the last decade, we’ve seen significant changes in the technology landscape. We’ve seen software grow simpler and accessible to anyone. We’ve seen consumer technology surpass business technology and work its way into the business world. I could go on, but the point is this: As advancing technology continues to change and play an increased role in business, IT departments must evolve.
The problem: Many are still stuck in the past. As technology evolves, many IT departments are operating with outdated or ineffective strategies. They’re operating as if nothing has changed, or they’re actively fighting the changes.
Why is this such a problem? If IT departments don’t adapt to changing technology, they risk getting bypassed altogether. If business units feel that IT can’t meet their needs, or offers outdated solutions, they will take matters into their own hands–opting for third-party cloud solutions instead.
So, what can you do about this?
The first step to fixing an outdated IT strategy: Recognizing there’s a problem. Many times, those operating with an outdated strategy have no idea they’re doing so. How do you know if you’re operating with an outdated strategy? We posed that question to a few experts in the industry, and have compiled their input below. Here are 6 signs you need a new IT strategy:
1. Key IT constituencies are expressing dissatisfaction
Now, this might seem like an obvious sign, but I mention it for one simple reason: Many IT leaders don’t get the message. Maybe they’ve learned to tune out the complaints, or maybe they just don’t hear them. Be careful. In this period of technological change, IT leaders must become excellent listeners.
“Many IT leaders are horrible about listening to important user constituencies, even if it is the CEO, CFO, etc…,” says Oli Thordarson, CEO of Alvaka Networks. “Better yet, they should be out asking questions, interviewing their key users, sitting in on business strategy meetings, etc. I find way too many IT leaders are self-congratulatory about what they have created. This not only can keep them from hearing about new needs, but it fosters complacency.”
2. Shadow IT is growing
If complaints are the biggest sign that you need a new strategy, silence is a close second. When people stop complaining, one of two things are happening: You’ve either fixed their problem, or they’ve found a way to fix it themselves. If you haven’t fixed their problem, and they’ve stopped complaining, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what’s happening.
“The biggest sign [that you need a new IT strategy] has to be the growth of shadow IT,” says Peter Ziobrowski, blogger at powershellr.com. “If other business units are growing their IT outside the organization’s IT department, that has to be the biggest sign it has become ineffectual and out of date with business needs.”
The big question: How do you know if Shadow IT is growing in your company? After all, if it’s practiced on the sneak, how can IT leaders know they have a problem? I won’t get into everything in this article, but here’s a recent article that lists a few signs of Shadow IT.
3. Your IT strategy has diverged from the company strategy
“The biggest sign [that you need a new IT strategy] is divergence: when the focus of the IT strategy veers from the course laid out by the company’s business strategy,” explains Steven Lowe, Founder and CEO at Innovator, LLC. “A small measurement: examine the effort expended on each IT system and compare that to the value that it provides to the business strategy. Look for places where the effort is increasing but the value is not.”
It sounds simple, but it’s an easy trap to fall into–and one that you must always watch for. How? As mentioned in this article, communication is one of the most important factors in IT/business alignment. Without constant communication with the business and regular examinations of your strategy, your once-solid IT strategy may slowly fall out of touch with the business.
4. Development projects are slow and frequently delayed
Let me ask you a question: How quickly does your IT department deliver solutions? Are new solutions regularly delayed? If you don’t deliver solutions quickly, two problems can occur: First, the solutions you do deliver are so late that they no longer fit the business’ needs. Or second, the business tires of waiting and finds another option. The point is this: A modern IT strategy is built around speed. As technology moves faster, so must your IT department.
“Delays in releasing updates, releasing new development and launching new and updated systems and associated technologies are possible indicators of misaligned or outdated strategy,” says Joseph R. Czarnecki, PMP, MSP, SCPM, the Vice President of Product and Sales Support for IPS Learning. “For example, if your strategy is to provide leading-edge technology but your releases are delayed and possibly not relevant at the time of release, your strategy is no longer aligned to your organization’s work. On-time product development and/or launches are also visible metrics that customers look for to indicate that the systems are the best available and that needs are being addressed. To address these delays as they relate to your strategy, it is important to consider who is choosing the work, and who is managing the scope and/or requirements of the release.”
5. IT isn’t invited to strategy meetings
I’ve often heard IT leaders complain that they’re not included in strategic planning meetings–and they make a great point. In today’s technology-driven world, IT should be included in strategy meetings.
So, why are many left out? When IT leaders aren’t invited to strategy meetings, it’s generally for one of two reasons. First, it could mean that the business still views IT as a back-office function that does little more than offer support for the business. The second reason–as explained below–is that the business leaders view their IT department as using an outdated approach.
“Technology, and data, are vital to any successful business today,” says Adam Hartung, a former CIO and current CEO of Spark Partners. “If the IT department is delivering what the business needs they will seek out IT leaders to be part of their strategic planning and discuss IT involvement in major projects. If IT isn’t being asked to the strategy meetings early and often it’s a good bet you’re already not seen as having an effective strategy.”
6. You spend most of your resources maintaining legacy IT
Many IT departments are still caught in something known as an “80/20 spending trap.” They spend 80% of their resources supporting/maintaining existing systems, leaving just 20% of resources for new projects. For IT departments to provide more business value, they must break free from this spending trap. A modern IT strategy must give the IT department a way to devote more resources into projects that drive business growth.
“If your budget is that legacy dominated, there’s no doubt your planning is legacy dominated — and your strategy is not prepared for tomorrow as it spends too much time and effort trying to defend and extend legacy implementations,” explains Hartung. “If you don’t change how you and your staff spend their time and resources you aren’t being strategic about adding future value.”
So, what do you think? Would you add anything else to that list? If so, feel free to share in the comments.