In the digital age, companies can no longer afford to be held back by infighting and misunderstanding between CIOs and business departments. In most cases, the CIO is responsible for initiating this evolution.
This is a recurring theme: for several years now, institutes have been multiplying surveys and other analyses to show that, although things are changing – a little – there is still a relatively poor relationship between IT and the business. This is due to a heavy history, with an omnipotent IT department, focused on technology and processes.
However, users are no longer so ignorant when it comes to technology: they use it on a daily basis and often have, at home if not on their person, peripherals and software solutions that are more modern than the tools offered by the company. Disarmed to achieve their goals, the trades have grown tired of waiting. Taking the lead, they bring their personal devices into the company (BYOD) and take advantage of the advent of the cloud to deploy their business solutions, without going through the IT department (Shadow IT) or even without its knowledge.
This tension between IT and business has become even more disabling in recent years as companies in a resolutely digital society are increasingly dependent on their information systems. It is in part through the latter that strategic differences can emerge that will make the difference with the competition.
Share a strategic vision
In fact, the assumption of power by the business is no more beneficial to the company than the hegemony of the IT department: it weakens the information system, introduces numerous risks in the area of security or data with inconsistencies that end up harming customer relations, not to mention the complex issues of compliance.
Installed in a customer-supplier relationship, both parties must put an end to this climate of misunderstanding, even mistrust, and move towards a model based on collaboration. To do this, the IT department must become a business partner for the business lines and position itself as a technical advisor in support of the company’s operational and economic performance. This objective can only be achieved through a shared awareness between the business and IT departments. The levers of this transformation are both human and technical.
Establishing a dialogue
Above all, transformation requires dialogue. The IT department must share its constraints, and therefore its “ability to do”, with the business. It must also go beyond its role of executor to develop a position of advisor and prescriber for the businesses, in particular by selecting solutions adapted to their needs before they turn to external service providers because they have not been listened to. Even if it means using SaaS cloud solutions to be instantly operational.
The IT department will not escape the role of “Cloud Broker”. You might as well admit it from the start. It must know the offers and their control and integration capabilities in order to become a force of proposal in this area rather than being overtaken by users.
With its technical expertise, it must – better than anyone else – identify opportunities linked to technological innovations more quickly and share them with the business lines in order to set up differentiating services and products.
To be able to play this role of advisor and companion to the company’s development, the IT department must necessarily take on the challenges of operational performance of the business lines in order to be able to apply them within the information system. This transformation necessarily implies a reorganization of IT resources in order to set up communication bridges between the business, the IT department and the users. Thus, more and more CIOs are asking their teams to have both technical and business skills.
At the same time, new players are appearing whose role is to strengthen the understanding between the two worlds: business analysts, responsible for translating business needs into IT solutions, enterprise architects to guarantee the coherence between the IS and these same business needs, or even a “client manager”, the IT department’s representative within the business departments. Whatever the title, these players play a key role in setting up an effective collaboration where business and IT move forward together.
A CIO integrated into the company’s management
Finally, while the CIO remains the guarantor of the proper functioning of the information system, he or she must also evolve and participate in defining the company’s strategy. Its integration into the executive committee (Comex) is still being debated, but it is clear that the companies that are moving the fastest and taking full advantage of the opportunities offered by technology have already passed this stage. By definition, the role of a Comex is to decide and steer the company’s strategy.
In a world where success is increasingly based on the integration of digital technology into business models, it is difficult to see how company managers can do without the technical expertise of the CIO and his unique cross-functional vision of technical and business processes.
Focus on added value for the business
In order to evolve towards this more strategic role and to reinforce its mission of advising the business, the CIO must however be able to extract himself from the daily routine or, in other words, devote less time to maintaining the information system in operational conditions and more to innovation.
From this perspective, its added value lies less in the deployment of technical infrastructures than in its ability to promote the use of new technologies to design, produce and distribute new services.
Many companies are outsourcing to the cloud, in particular, in response to this logic. At the same time, since they are no longer held back by the deployment of hardware and software environments before being able to implement services, CIOs gain in responsiveness and respond more quickly to the needs expressed by the business.
In the same way, IT resources are no longer monopolized by purely technical operations and can concentrate on tasks that bring real added value to the business.
More agile computing.
Finally, to keep pace with the business and the digital society, CIOs must also have a more agile information system. No more tunnel projects that are outdated when they finally come to fruition. In addition to agile methods, whose iterative approach favors a better alignment of IT with business needs, the IT department must transform the information system in such a way as to be able to easily capitalize on the existing system while integrating new technologies.
In practice, this evolution involves abandoning monolithic applications or transforming them into processes accessible via APIs. This approach, formerly known as SOA (Service Oriented Architecture), has gained in granularity in recent years with the notions of microservices and API management in order to further accentuate the business agility of information systems.
Finally, tool-based methods such as DevOps can also contribute to bringing IT and business closer together in the sense that they also promote better responsiveness and reliability of deliverables.
So the question is not whether you can do without an IT department. It must evolve and get closer to the business by becoming a true “business partner”. To do this, it must evolve, modernize, embrace the opportunities born of the cloud and gain agility (through cloud, automation and DevOps). Opportunities that provide the power to say “YES” without sacrificing efficiency, security and compliance.