One of the most dangerous phrases in any organization is IT-business alignment! As soon as we started talking about aligning IT with the business, we actually furthered the divide. We continuously emphasized the disconnect and established it as the norm.
The new business vocabulary includes words like Netflixed, Amazoned and Ubered. Technology is defining whole new business models and disrupting the daylights out of old ones.
Alignment is still important but it can no longer be the ultimate goal.
Do you ever hear a CFO or CMO talk about aligning Finance or Marketing with the business? Of course not. We need to embed the philosophy into our collective IT DNA that says "We ARE the business!" When IT organizations start to do that, they find their stock rising, moving higher up the value curve.
The IT Maturity Curve
Ouellette & Associates (O&A) developed the IT Maturity Curve based on a year-long research study with Babson College, involving 130 CIOs, COOs and IT Leaders from 65 companies across 10 industries and a combination of site visits, interviews and a quantitative survey. This, along with over 30 years of O&A experience transforming more than 3,500 IT organizations worldwide, tells us that there has never been a better time to be in the IT profession.
Today’s IT organization has to be comprised of Innovative Anticipators that don’t just partner with the business, but actually drive business opportunities. And IT talent can no longer focus on just technical skills. Every IT team member needs to be business savvy, consultative, value driven and innovative.
Stage 1 of the IT Maturity Curve is a basic supplier of IT services. These IT organizations generally don’t know about new business initiatives and are highly subject to outsourcing.
Stage 2 are the order takers that build efficiency and effectiveness. Stage 2 organizations do, eventually, get called when a major business initiative is underway and they are able to process the order.
Stage 3 is where most IT teams aspire. These are strategic partners and trusted advisors who are embedded into the business. They are agile, innovative and good at leading change. As a CIO, we liked being at Stage 3 because we got invited to the first meeting when an opportunity arose.
Today’s leading CIOs are at Stage 4. They are the Innovative Anticipators that have built a culture of innovation throughout IT. These are the people that are calling the meeting to discuss business transformation. They are true business leaders.
Stage 4 IT organizations excel at all four stages, with an emphasis on continuous improvement. They never lose sight of service excellence, consulting skills or communicating the value of IT while they are leading the business to new opportunities. They build a solid foundation with a focus on IT culture and talent – and ensure they are good at every level.
Our own research with numerous CIOs of organizations that are high on the Maturity Curve sought to uncover the secret sauce of these high impact IT teams. We asked these CIOs, all separately and without a list to prompt them, to tell us the core competencies that they focus on today. What are they developing in their current workforce and what are they looking for when hiring new colleagues? Remarkably, 13 of the 14 competencies that they uncovered are “human factors”, not technical skills. The research underscores the cultural revolution occurring in IT today. What used to be considered the “soft skills” are now the core competencies that differentiate high performing IT organizations.
Businesses, educational institutions and government agencies that achieve Stage 4 on the IT Maturity Curve are thought leaders that re-shape their industries, avoid disruption, and enjoy a measurable competitive advantage.
Where is your IT team today? What stage does your company need IT to be in for you to successfully compete, differentiate and sustain growth? Do you want to be the disrupter or the disrupted?
As much as we want to accelerate the journey, we can't skip stages. And, there is always a risk of backsliding, so we need to keep our game strong at every stage through continuous improvement.
Stage 1 organizations mature to Stage 2 by excelling in service, project management and business requirements management. These are the skills that build confidence in IT. Consistently great service and successful projects earn credibility for IT.
Stage 2 organizations grow to Stage 3 by developing internal consulting, negotiating and marketing skills. Consulting skills make IT a team of trusted advisors to the business. Negotiating emerges as IT gains credibility and respect. Rather than taking orders, IT is able to challenge and advise their business partners. Marketing is about communicating the value of IT. Whether in a broad communication campaign for a major strategic initiative or 30-second hallway conversations, marketing the value of IT provides a common understanding of IT’s business contributions across the organization.
Stage 3 IT organizations become change leaders. They complete their agile transformation and they innovate. That’s how they mature to Stage 4. They earned the privilege to operate at Stage 3 by building credibility, trust and respect through stages 1 and 2, and partnering at the head table.
Stage 4 IT organizations create and sustain a culture of innovation while driving continuous improvement across all of the skills that got them to Stage 4.
As CIOs, we are fortunate to have an end-to-end view of how our companies operate. Using this unique seat at the table, and by studying the trends in our industry, Stage 4 IT organizations can look around the corner and "anticipate" (not align!!!) new opportunities for our companies. We can bring innovation and thought leadership that drives new revenue streams and redefines the customer experience. We can be the game changer. We can be the disrupter.
Obviously we have people in our organizations at each stage of the maturity curve journey. Savvy CIOs are focused on the percentages of people at each stage. They are executing new Talent/Workforce strategies that move more resources higher up the curve. For example, if you have 70% of your IT workforce in stages 1 and 2 and only 30% in stages 3 and 4, imagine the impact you will have on the business when you shift this from 70/30 to 60/40 to 50/50 or better!
IT should not align with the business. IT is the business.
Changing the Conversation
O&A focuses on Developing the Human Side of Technology. We prepare every member of the IT team to take their game to the next level, becoming Strategic Partners and Innovative Anticipators. We are changing the conversation about IT strategy, culture and talent by employing the new "core" competencies and an attitude of "we ARE the business."
Today’s leading executives are leveraging The IT Maturity Curve to change the conversation about IT strategy, culture and talent. Start your journey today! Call O&A at (603) 623-7373 or email Tracy Dinu at TDinu@Ouellette-online.com.