One of the most dangerous phrases in any organization is IT-business alignment! In fact, 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 talk about aligning Finance with the business? Of course not. We need to embed the philosophy into our collective IT DNA that says “We ARE the business!” Because when IT organizations start to do that, they’ll find their stock rising, moving higher up the value curve.
What Is the IT Maturity Curve?
We developed the IT Maturity Curve based on a year-long research study with Babson College. The study included 130 CIOs, COOs and IT leaders from 65 companies across ten industries and involved a combination of site visits, interviews and a quantitative survey. The results, along with over 30+ years of O&A experience transforming more than 3,500 IT organizations worldwide, tell us that there has never been a better time to be in the IT profession — as long as the team has the necessary skills and tools to succeed.
Today’s IT organization has to be comprised of “Innovative Anticipators” who 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.
Let’s take a closer look at the four stages of IT Maturity Curve:
Stage 1 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 organizations are the order-takers that build efficiency and effectiveness. Eventually, they’ll get called when a major business initiative is underway and they are able to process the order.
Stage 3 is the level most IT teams aspire to. These organizations are strategic partners and trusted advisors who are embedded into the business. They are agile, innovative and good at leading change. CIOs like being at Stage 3 because they get invited to the first meeting when an opportunity arises.
But the most successful, game-changing CIOs today are at Stage 4. They have built a culture of innovation throughout IT and, as a result, 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 clear IT workforce strategy — and ensure they are good at every level.
Core Competencies of High-Performing IT Organizations
Our 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, nearly all of the competencies that they uncovered are “human factors,” not technical skills. This 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.
Moving Up the IT Maturity Curve
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 you’ll want to accelerate the journey, you can’t skip stages. And since there is always a risk of backsliding, you need to keep your game strong at every stage through continuous improvement and talent development.
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 there.
CIOs are fortunate to have an end-to-end view of how their companies operate. Using this unique seat at the table, and by studying industry trends, Stage 4 IT organizations can look around the corner and “anticipate” new opportunities for their companies. They can bring innovation and thought leadership that drives new revenue streams and redefines the customer experience. They can be the game changer. The disrupter.
Of course, you’ll have people at each stage of the IT Maturity Curve in your organization, so focus on the percentages of people at each stage and on developing and implementing an IT workforce strategy that will 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 from 70/30 to 60/40 to 50/50 or better!
And always follow the mantra: IT should not align with the business. IT is the business.
Get in touch for an assessment of where your organization is on the IT Maturity Curve and to discuss a plan for optimizing your journey to Innovative Adapter.
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