I guess the secret to any business's success is to have a plan and a process for leveraging technology to meet the business objectives, and building an IT infrastructure that is flexible to meet the business challenges and changing market conditions. What is your company's plan and process for leveraging technology and to build that infrastructure that is flexible? Or is your company still stuck in the 20th century way of doing business by segregating IT from the business? Believe it or not, I still see lots of companies where this is the standard operating procedure. Technology is a means to achieve business objectives and these companies are keeping the two (IT and Business) completely separate. Why? Good question. There are lots of terms for bringing IT and business closer together; alignment, integration (I used this one in a previous post), and the latest one, convergence. What these are really are stages, convergence being the pinnacle of IT and Business working together strategically.
What we are really looking at getting to is the way to put technology and business management together to create a very flexible infrastructure. There is another term that I see playing a key role here. That term is adaptable. I'm a big subscriber to Gary Hamel, who stated in Dec of 2003, that "strategic resilience is not about responding to a onetime crisis..it's about continuously anticipating and adjusting to deep, secular trends that can permanently impair the earning power of a core business. It's about having the capacity to change before the case for change becomes desperately obvious." Adaptation.
What better reason to be more tightly converged with the business than to enable the company to continuously adjust to changing market demands. By having this converged scenario in your company I can almost guarantee that you will be better able to react to these dynamic market conditions, push through innovations faster, and maintain resiliency in the face of competitive challenges.
I was speaking with some executives recently (VMWorld actually) and I found it interesting that some of the challenges they both faced was responding to change and being the initiator of change. I spoke about this whole topic of IT/Business "integration "slash" convergence" and stated that in my opinion having a company that was better converged would be able to achieve those goals.
So what does a converged company look like? Some of the characteristics I have come across are:
- Governance and Organization: companies that get this understand the role of technology in the enterprise and they manage technology to meet business objectives. One big characteristic here is that communication to the rest of the company about what IT is doing is huge.
- Strategy and Planning: this characteristic brings out the required business capabilities and the technology plans to enable them. It also gives a disciplines means of ensuring budgets reflect and support the business strategy.
- Strategic EA: enterprise architecture describes the enterprise's business strategies, operating models, capabilities and processes in terms of actionable for business technology.
There are more I'm sure, but these are the ones that stand out to me. I have also seen that leaders in some of the clients I've worked with look at technology as an enabler of business strategy. I've been saying this all along and use that statement in almost every client meeting. These companies look at the technology implications of business decisions and they look for creative ways to embed technology into the way they do business. That is what I call true business technology.
The bottom line here is that companies that get to the stage of convergence of IT and the Business are saving money, and I mean real dollars people. The greater value here, at least as I see it, is in making an enterprise more agile, adaptive and able to have that capacity to change before the case for change becomes desperately obvious, and to improve its total performance as an enterprise.